When I moved to York County more than four years ago, Brown's Orchards & Farm Market was one of my first exposures to life in southcentral Pennsylvania - aside from my depressing and drab farmhouse-turned-apartment in Loganville.
I knew I had made a mistake moving from Philadelphia to a borough of about 1,200 people. I should've opted for York, but I needed a place so I could start my new job at the York Daily Record, and I didn't have much time to look. So I rushed into a year-long lease and dealt with the culture shock.
I remember feeling so out of place in a new town, as I stopped by Brown's to pick up a pint of Maryland crab soup and a few items to fill my vacant refrigerator. Because of my insecurity, I felt like everyone knew I wasn't from here. I had a hard time during the first year of my first job out of college.But every day before my 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift, I stopped by Brown's for a coffee. I went there when I was bored before I made friends. I browsed the shelves and hung out in the café just to be around people. Although I didn't talk to anyone, I felt the sense of community that inherently thrives at the 63-year-old business.
A year later, I moved downtown, where I've happily resided since. But most of the time, when I pass exit 10 on Interstate 83, I go to Brown's.
A few months ago, I noticed the market expanded its café to include more seating and hot sandwiches. Cold sandwiches and soups used to be served at the deli.
President David Brown - the recently promoted son of Stan Brown - said his family opened the café in 2007 and expanded it July 2011 after employees suggested the idea.
"The biggest bonus, people wouldn't have to go to multiple places to get their sandwiches and drinks," he said.
Brown's added about
30 seats and created a menu, which features paninis, deli sandwiches and breakfast items, along with coffee and other drinks.
I recently stopped by for lunch on my way back from an assignment in Codorus Township. The café bustled with moms pushing kids in grocery carts, businesspeople on their lunch breaks and friends catching up over sandwiches and Rutter's iced tea.
I ordered a Hawaiian Luau panini on multigrain ciabatta. The sandwich came with Brown's ham, mozzarella, pineapple rings, red onion, honey mustard and pepper. I added lettuce, tomato and pickles.
I sat at a small table near a wall full of artwork across from hanging wind chimes and bird feeders. Customers looked relaxed as they chatted or worked on their laptops. It felt cozy.
I loved the sandwich, especially how the ingredients blended into a sweet, warm flavor. As I browsed my email on my phone, Stan Brown came up to my table to
welcome me. He didn't know I worked for the newspaper. It's just something he does.
Judging by the crowds in the café and throughout the market, I'm sure I'm not alone in saying Brown's is one of my favorite places in York County.
I used to think I went there so often because it was the closest business to my old apartment, other than a self-serve carwash.
Looking back, I see it much differently.
Brown Bean Café and Coffee Bar
LOCATION: Brown's Orchards & Farm Market, 8892 Susquehanna Trail in Springfield Township
CUISINE: Breakfast, sandwiches and coffee bar
LEIGH'S PICK: Hawaiian Luau panini and coconut-cream coffee ($9.50)
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; and
8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday
PRICE RANGE: $1.05 to $7.25
ALCOHOL: Guests may buy Logan's View wine to drink with dinner
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Visit www.brownsorchards.com or call 717-428-2036