Gleaming vintage automobiles line the street outside Wiggin Street Coffee every Sunday morning. Car aficionados can bring their own special cars, or just gather to ogle the exceptional vehicles that appear between 9 a.m. and noon.
Car enthusiast Steve Brown started Cars and Coffee last fall. A former mechanical designer, he fell in love with Gambier five years ago after driving through Ohio to pick up his daughter from the end of a semester at Oberlin College. Brown was so enamored by the Village that he decided to buy a home here. After hearing about the rising popularity of these events around the country, Brown decided he would take the initiative and start something similar in Gambier. “I’m from Maryland, and there’s a Cars and Coffee in Annapolis, the state capital,” Brown said. “It was started by a group of Ferrari guys that would come on Sunday morning. Word got out, and now 150 cars show up every Sunday morning.”
After witnessing the rise of Cars and Coffee in his home state, Brown thought he could tap into the thriving car culture in Ohio. Once a bastion of the United States’ car industry, many vintage vehicles languish in people’s garages around the state. “There are a lot of car enthusiasts around here,” he said. “Within a five-mile range of here, there must be a hundred beautiful vintage cars that people keep in their garages.”
“I figured Gambier has to be one of the nicest destinations there is,” Brown said. “I’m trying to get people to come over and get coffee or a great lunch, show off their cars and chat with fellow car guys.”
After establishing weekly meetings last fall, Cars and Coffee stopped in the winter when Brown returned to Maryland. But since returning this year, Brown has sought to grow Cars and Coffee into a more well-attended function.
“We’ll know it’s taken off when people start showing up that I haven’t specifically invited,” Brown said. “So far it’s friends who I ask to bring their cars Sunday morning but I could see it getting more popular soon.” There are no qualifications for the type of cars displayed at Cars and Coffee. Brown has been to events in Maryland that have Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but also Bentleys and Fords. He only asks that people bring a passion and a love for cars.
The current attendees certainly have an immense passion. Brown brought a vintage Citroën and Anthony Devore, a fellow car expert, brought a gorgeous custom-made motorcycle which he designed to look like a vintage yellow school bus. Devore attached the skeleton of an old school bus to the motorcycle and created a bus-motorcycle hybrid.
“This is a handmade, custom-made thing,” Devore said. “It’s got a 250 Suzuki whole motorcycle in it. I’ve got three more of these at home. I got this crazy idea, and this is the end result.” When Devore’s son, a student at Wiggin Street Elementary, was in kindergarten last year, Devore fit 21 of his son’s classmates inside the handmade vehicle.
Since only four or five people attend the events at the moment, Brown thinks family weekend is a prime opportunity to advertise his event and show off beautiful cars. “I’m going to really try hard to get everybody to come out for parents’ weekend,” Brown said. “There’ll be so many people to see and chat about the interesting machines we got here.”