For those who consider themselves a caffeine addict or coffee enthusiast (like me), not much can beat a great cup of joe. Anyone looking for a quirky or vintage coffee shop should visit the Pump Station Café located in Boalsburg, PA. This place is sure to satisfy all of your caffeine needs!
Most gas stations that eventually decide to move to a new building typically tear the old one down or make it into another car shop. However, the old Texaco gas station in Boalsburg, PA, sold their building to a coffee shop owner who has turned it into what is now called the Pump Station Café.
While driving up to the Pump Station, I immediately feel a sense of curiosity as I have never seen a coffee shop built into an old gas station building before. The gas station was owned by Ken Tennis from 1946-1992, and many locals still come in saying they remember him servicing their parents' cars there.
The shop is unique and as I open the door to walk inside, I am met by many Texaco themed items and vintage gas station vibes. There is an immediate sense of happiness as there are several large windows allowing plenty of sunlight in. It is the perfect place for both locals and travelers looking to find a special experience when getting their daily fix of coffee.
While pondering over what to get on the menu, I start talking with one of the employees. Her name is Heather Jones and she started as a barista for the shop in 2007. She eventually worked her way up to supervisor and manager, and then in 2012 had the opportunity to become a business partner where she now holds the title “Managing Partner.”
Heather’s energetic personality makes the conversation easy and the stories she is telling me about her time at the shop are unforgettable. I find that she got into the business due to her love for coffee and the culture that surrounds it. She also enjoys the aspects of baking, being creative, and how this job allows her to get to know people. She starts to explain her job by running through a typical day at the Cafe.
“We typically are very busy in the morning when we open at 7 am and stay busy through lunch. We have a lot of awesome regulars who we see every day, along with having the chance to smell locally roasted coffee and plenty of baked goods. The phone seems to be constantly ringing with call-in orders and same with the tablet which gets hit with many Grubhub orders. We also have a drive-thru so my headset beeps to notify me when someone is there. As soon as we open our doors, we have many customers waiting to get inside.”
Throughout our conversation I keep gathering the sense that most days at the café seem to be very busy and interesting; however, Heather claims that there is something she notes as being very memorable when it comes to the Pump Station. She adds that the café’s participation in a PBS special called “Our Town Boalsburg” back in 2018 was something she will never forget. This special featured several local businesses in the town. Heather adds that she is grateful for it because the town often gets overlooked due to how close it is to State College and the famous Penn State University.
Heather then talks about coffee bean supply and the different regions they source from. “We get our coffee beans from WC Clarke’s The Cheese Shoppe in State College, PA, to support local business and to ensure that our beans are as fresh as possible for the best tasting brew. We also serve brews roasted from beans from the Standing Stone Coffee Company located in Huntingdon, PA, for the same reasons. Both places deliver our orders to us which is very convenient, and we find that they are large hits with the customers.
People looking for more than just coffee would also benefit from visiting the Pump Station as they offer breakfast and lunch all day. The menu offers a variety of items, like breakfast sandwiches, bagels, or English muffins. The lunch menu displays a whole array of sandwiches with the café’s homemade chicken salad sandwich, paninis, subs, soups, wraps, salads, and burgers. The café also includes a bakery which features different types of muffins, cinnamon buns, cereal treats, brownies, cookies, and scones. They strive to serve both regular and gluten-free options for most items to help those who may prefer the latter.
“The Pump Station is very proud to offer a menu with such variety. I would say that our
most popular item by far is the chicken salad sandwich which is mixed with celery, craisins, and cashews. We run a special with it every Monday through Friday. Other popular items are our Jumpstarts which are the breakfast sandwiches, our espresso beverages like the lattes, and our different types of muffins from the bakery,” Heather says.
“Not only do we offer many different food items on the menu, but we also offer a variety of different brew methods. We offer hot coffee which we brew through our Bunn machine, iced coffee, and cold brew along with all of the different kinds of specialty drinks. Another hit of ours that many people note us for are our smoothies and the item called the brain freeze. The brain freeze is a frozen latte and customers get to choose what flavor they would like mixed in, and then we top it off with whipped cream.”
After talking with Heather for a while I finally decide to order a single espresso which Heather notes is an authentic Italian espresso. I also order one of their homemade cookies as they look huge!
While still standing there talking to Heather, I start wondering if there are any downsides to working in this business. Heather mentions that the worst part of the job is having to deal with unreasonably grumpy customers. While they are pretty rare in this area, they do leave a lasting impression on the employees. Heather also adds that this one lone negative is drowned out by how much she loves the café’s relationship with customers, the conversations she has with both customers and co-workers, and the flexibility her job has with creativity and new items.
The Pump Station Café workers strive to give optimum customer service and will do whatever they can to make customers feel happy and at home. With State College and Penn State University being so close and much larger, Boalsburg gives off a small-town feel where employees at the businesses want to get to know you and are happy to do so. Heather describes the atmosphere of the café as being, “fast-paced and fun. It always smells good from the coffee and baked goods, and there’s a lot of laughter going on and many people chatting. Overall, it is a unique experience that goes along with a great environment for everyone.”
As a student at the nearby Penn State University, I am always looking for somewhere I can sit and do some homework outside of my apartment. The Pump Station seems like a great place to do that as it is generally pretty quiet, and they offer free Wi-Fi to customers. Doing work while also getting a great cup of joe? I don’t think anything could sound better!
At the Pump Station, you can experience a lot more than just a great meal and a cup of coffee since it is right next door to the PA Military Museum. With the café sitting right on Boalsburg Avenue it makes for the perfect place to grab a coffee and then stroll the streets of the quaint town of Boalsburg or head on over to the Military Museum.
“It is very common for our customers to grab their coffee and then head over to the Museum. It is a place dedicated to the military history of Pennsylvania and attracts a lot of people throughout the year,” Heather said.
The Pump Station Café is unique, quaint, and all-around a great experience. Next time you are visiting Centre County and looking for a place to get your daily fix, definitely stop by this café. There is nothing like the taste of a coffee from a local coffee shop.
Written by Haley Keck
Edited by Griffin Relford