I-ron-ic Coffee Shop may be closing, but its community won't forget it
On the corner of North Newberry and West Philadelphia streets, you'll find a haven for the arts and the art of coffee — I-ron-ic Coffee Shop, which for the past decade has been an anchor in downtown York City.
The owners have played no small part in bringing their community together.
However, this cultural corner will be closing soon.
"We're starting the next chapter, and it feels like it happens every 10 years," said Steve Billet, who owns I-ron-ic with partner David Smith.
A decade ago, Billet and Smith moved to York County from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to be near Billet's mother, who was fighting cancer at the time. Now they're moving to be closer to Smith's parents, who are experiencing health issues of their own.
They are working on closing a deal with a potential buyer, a chef, who would like to keep the same layout, Billet said. Currently, there is no solid date for I-ron-ic to close, as the sale may take a few more weeks.
While the doors of the colorful café may be closing, the impact Billet and Smith have had on the community will remain.
Ironically, I-ron-ic wasn't a coffee shop when it first opened. All Billet and Smith knew was that the building, a condemned structure the two wanted to remodel, would be a retail space.
When I-ron-ic opened, it sold art and second-hand retail, and "it just kept morphing," Billet said.
Eventually it became a gathering place for the art community. Musicians played outside the store during its first months of business.
"York was very welcoming. They're the reason we morphed into a bit of a bigger space," Billet said.
I-ron-ic is located in the WeCo District, short for "West of the Codorus." WeCo is a merchant district home to many retailers and Penn Market. Billet and Smith were instrumental in the branding of the WeCo district around 2014.
Some retailers even have the pair to thank for leading them to WeCo. One of those retailers is Melissa Rosario-McGarry and her husband Jason McGarry, who own the Cornerstone Barbershop across the street from I-ron-ic.
"We're really only in this neighborhood because Steve and Dave told us, 'Hey, this building has an opening now,'" Rosario-McGarry said.
Billet and Smith were "super welcoming" to them and told Rosario-McGarry about the events and gatherings in WeCo that happened pre-COVID.
The merchant community used to come together to meet and plan events, and "when we first moved into the neighborhood, about 3½ years ago, Steve and Dave were like really encouraging me to pick up that torch or mantle and get those meetings going again," Rosario-McGarry said.
So she went out door-to-door and introduced herself and reached out to other merchants about having community meetings and collaborations to see how they can help one another, cross promote and share skills.
"We started having those meetings about eight or nine months ago ... and it has just kind of grown organically," Rosario-McGarry said.
The McGarrys aren't the only community leaders Billet and Smith have influenced, which is evident in the many projects and initiatives they are handing off to their neighbors. Those include the Creekfire Events held on the banks of the Codorus Creek, which are now organized by their neighbors Paul Martin and Matthew Higgins, and York Pedicabs, which offers open air cabs driven by bicyclists, which is led by Matthew McDunnell.
"The different people who have taken over things, they're doing an amazing job. I think David and I were just meant to be here to jumpstart things," Billet said.
During the shop's time in York City, I-ron-ic's clientele has included everyone from county commissioners and business owners to musicians and homeless people, Billet said.
Karla Shelley, a 37-year-old hospital worker who lives in East York, said she has been meeting friends at I-ron-ic for years. They call themselves "The Council," she said, and bring their young children, "spending hours upstairs."
"It's the only coffee shop in York that I know of that has that third space vibe, that you can come to and just hang out and feel comfortable," Shelley said.
Higgins, who is taking over Creekfire Events, has been going to I-ron-ic since he moved to the area and was dating Martin, now his husband. They lived right behind the courthouse and heard about "this art gallery and coffee shop, and we just started going there," the 32-year-old York City resident recalled.
The couple became close friends with Billet and Smith, and Martin started helping with Creekfire events.
"It's like they're our fathers," Higgins said. "They're passing down this community to us."
Another longtime I-ron-ic patron is Andrew Gobel, 34, who works at Core Design Group on West Market Street. He called I-ron-ic a "hub" in downtown York City.
Gobel walks to work every day, and a walkable community in downtown is what drew him to York City. I-ron-ic speaks to that walkability, showing there is more to York's downtown than the city center, he said.
"They played a huge part in that," Gobel said.
To keep up to date on I-ron-ic's business hours and closing date, visit their website at https://i-ron-ic.com/.
— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.