Coffee Caboose to close after six years

Published 6:36 pm Friday, August 31, 2018

It all started with a pair of best friends and an old building on South McNair St. After building up a business that has become a something of a local landmark, Mary Anne Foy and Jennifer Skvarla Alligood, co-founders of the Coffee Caboose, will be closing the business’ doors for good come Sunday.

Six years ago, both women had entered new chapters in their lives. After losing their husbands at around the same time, the two best friends took what they call a “field of dreams” walk that resulted in the realization that they should open a business together.

“This building has been in my family forever, and we knew that we could do something with it,” Foy said.

KEEPSAKES: Hailing from all across the world, thousands of people have visited the Coffee Caboose during its six years. Four guest books filled with names serve as a memento of those who have enjoyed the café’s hospitality. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

Alligood recalls that the idea for a coffee shop came about after Foy visited a shop in Greenville. With the Norfolk Southern Railroad depot once located right next door, the two decided that they wanted to incorporate a bit of local history into the building’s design and décor.

“We wanted to do the railroad theme for the coffee shop,” Alligood said, with Foy adding, “That’s how we came up with the idea for the Coffee Caboose.”

Since opening in 2012, the store has shared its hospitality with thousands of customers. Four guestbooks gathered over the years are filled with the names of those who have visited, from daily Washington regulars to boaters hailing from ports across the world.

“I lived in my little closed world and this has opened up my whole life,” Foy said of running the coffee shop. “That’s one of the reasons I’m ready to retire — I’m ready to get out there and do what everybody else is doing.”

While the Coffee Caboose has occupied the building for the past six years, the structure has a rich history. Originally, the building started its life as the Norfolk Southern Café in 1913. In the ensuing century, the building housed two grocery stores and was used as an Alcoholics Anonymous meetinghouse for more than 30 years.

A DIFFERENT TIME: One of the many historical photos hanging on the wall, this image shows the interior of the Coffee Caboose during one of its previous incarnations as a grocery store. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)


“There’s just a wonderful Washingtonian history to this place,” Alligood added.

Among those who will miss the building are a number of regular groups, including local contingents of runners, cyclists, knitters and others who utilize the café as a meeting place on a regular basis.

“This is really a magical building,” Foy said. “It has helped so many people over the years.”

While Foy and Alligood will be moving on to new chapters in their lives, so too will the historical building that has housed the Coffee Caboose. While Foy is making plans to utilize the space in a rental capacity, either as an Airbnb or long-term rental, running the little coffee shop will always stick out as a highlight for her and Alligood.

“It’s been the greatest experience of my life,” Foy said. “It began with friendship with Jennifer and I doing this together. Meeting the people, and all the joy, love and happiness … I’ve worked 40 years and this is the greatest job I’ve ever had.”

The Coffee Caboose, located at 111 S. MacNair St., will mark its final day of business this Sunday.