Renee will be a familiar face to those who may have stopped in to shop at Mama Ann's (in Westlake) over the past several years. Having worked there part time since her retirement from the Veteran's Hospital, when the opportunity came knocking recently to take over CJ's Coffee Shop next door, she just had to say “yes”! Renee is a local girl. She was raised in the Salem/Roanoke area and went on to marry a Rocky Mount native, so Smith Mountain Lake seemed like the perfect middle ground to make their home together. She loves gardening, reading, crafting, and especially spending time with her sweet furbabies.
CJ's is in the midst of celebrating its tenth year here at the lake and enjoys a loyal band of customers that allows it to remain open even through the off season. The previous owner was starting out on a new business venture, and knew it was time to pass CJ's off to another set of capable hands. Enter: Renee! She explains the timing of the opportunity as a “God thing” and has eagerly jumped into the new world of coffee shop proprietorship with both feet. Many days you'll find her at the cafe, filling orders right alongside her employees and chatting with customers old and new.
The transition is going incredibly well, and she is quick to credit her fabulous employees (who remain onboard!) with showing her the ropes and keeping service running smoothly. You might see a few little changes here and there as Renee brings her own unique touch to the business (like a new little reading nook with books to borrow!). Regulars will be delighted to hear that the menu will be largely staying the same, including the Higher Grounds coffee CJ's is known and loved for. Oh, and never fear, those cult-following Sausage Puffs aren't going anywhere either!
One change I'm personally thrilled about is the addition of gluten-free bread options. I've already had a sandwich on their GF Challah, and ohmyword, it was amazing! They actually have 5 or 6 different allergy-friendly bread varieties to choose from (including egg and dairy free), along with a few g-free baked goods. I'm so excited to see more allergy-friendly options here on this side of the lake!
Look for a Grand (Re)Opening celebration to come in the spring where they will officially make the signage changeover to reflect their new name: Westlake Coffee and Cafe! They're still open for business as usual in the meantime though: 7am-4pm Monday-Saturday.
Head over to try their morning bagel sandwiches and breakfast wraps along with a full menu of lunch salad and sandwich offerings. Daily specials and rotating baked goods can be found posted on Facebook. Oh, and don't forget to bring your pup along! Your four-legged sidekick is welcome out front where there are always fresh water bowls available, and if you're just headed through the drive thru ask about their pup-cups and little treats for your furry backseat driver!
I hope you'll all help Renee “feel the love” as a brand-new business owner here at the lake. ♥
This story originally appeared in The Current | Local. If you'd like to subscribe to keep up on all things SML and beyond, CLICK HERE. A new issue will be delivered to your inbox three Thursdays a month.