The Flat Iron Exchange in Bellows Falls, Vermont

BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT – A unique and intimate cafe, with an equally unique name – Flat Iron Coffee Exchange – recently opened its doors on The Square in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Opened in April by owners Jana Bryan and Mark Kenney, Flat Iron Exchange offers not only great coffees, teas, natural soft drinks and homemade bakery goods, but it is also creates an intimate, artistic open space for music events and local artists to exhibit their art works.


Article by Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Flat Iron Echange

Indeed, Flat Iron strongly promotes a feeling of community and promoting and showcasing local musicians, bands and visual artists. “The concept for starting the business came about from thinking what we were interested in doing and combining that with what people seemed to think the town needed,” Jana Bryan said in a recent exclusive, Standing Room Only interview.

“Mark and I both like the coffee house atmosphere - relaxed and informal - and we are interested in all the talented people in the area… musicians, artists and even local bakers. People told us that this sort of place, for the non bar-crowd was missing in town. A place you can meet or to wait for someone and a place for teens to feel comfortable… so we officially unlocked the door and peeled the newspaper off the windows this past April.”

Flat Iron Exchange features supreme coffee that is roasted locally by Precision Valley Coffee Roasters in Springfield, Vermont and receives the product literally two days after its been roasted. Flat Iron also offers a great selection of espresso drinks, teas and they utilize local, farm fresh milk from McNamara Dairy in Plainfield, New Hampshire.

“The tea we sell is sourced from Stone Leaf Tea based in Middlebury, Vermont and we also have freshly baked cakes, cookies, brownies and other baked goods, all created by area licensed home bakers. We try to maintain a balance of flavors and also offer gluten-free items regularly. We also have our own hot chocolate blend that is also wonderful served iced, as well as natural sodas, lemonade and seltzers.”

Another great aspect about Flat Iron Exchange is the willingness to offer up their space for local musicians, bands and visual artists to promote and showcase their talents. “We have an open stage policy and people are welcome to reserve the stage to perform… bring their family and friends along and make a night of it,” Jana said. “Regularly on early Friday evenings (around 4 to 6 pm) we have an open mic organized by local musician John Farnum, as well as other performances on the calendar. You can check out upcoming events on our Facebook page, as well as the Standing Room Only website.”

The visual art displayed at Flat Iron Exchange showcase a variety of area artists and is set up as an informal gallery space. “Each show lasts about three months and the art is for sale, with a portion of the proceeds always going to a non-profit organization of the artist's choice. Right now, we are displaying the beautiful, farm animal paintings of Amy Mosher and she chose the proceeds to benefit the Springfield (Vermont) Humane Society.” Flat Iron also recently displayed the paintings of local artist Scott J. Morgan.

There is no doubt that Flat Iron Exchange has both a unique business philosophy and atmosphere, dedicated to promoting as many of the locally talented musicians and artists as possible. “Yes, I think we have a very unique space,” Jana added. “Many people in town have a connection to the building and a story about it and because of this, I think people feel comfortable here. (Editor’s Note: this writer’s connection to the building is having been co-editor at The Green Mountain Outlook, with the office located in the very same Flat Iron space.)

“We don't have a huge agenda – if someone wanted to host a comedy night, we've love for it to happen as we are always open to ideas. We also do not charge musicians to use our space, as long as the event can remain open to the public. And we don't ever want to charge for music events and are always happy to have musicians sell their CDs or merchandise during their event.”

Yes, it is obvious that Flat Iron Exchange is in the business of supporting local business, music and art, while also offering great coffee and goodies! “We love to promote and support local businesses as much as possible, and the community is important to us as well. We offer "suspended coffee" where someone can pay for a” stay-in” coffee for another person who perhaps, can't afford it. I would say this is successful, as there has been a consistent balance of people giving and people receiving a coffee.

“One of the nicest things that we've noticed that happens, is when someone new orders a coffee, we ask "to stay or to go." Then, they will look around and reply something along the lines of ‘well, I was going to take it to-go, but I think I'll stick around.’ Yes, people seem to like the atmosphere and I think that is really what it's all about for us.”

To learn more about Flat Iron Exchange and their upcoming events, visit their website at www.flatironexchangevt.com or their Facebook page. You can also learn about upcoming Flat Iron events at SRO’s event calendar.