Spotlight: Calders Coffee Cafe 1

Traveling through a winding verdant tunnel deep in North Carolina’s Nantahala forest, Leigh and Clay Hartman’s 12 year-old-son weighs in on their potential move from Charlotte to the tiny mountain town of Highlands.

“My soul is here. When can we move?”

Despite harrowing curves on the 4,100-foot ascent as you drive up to Highlands, the journey is remarkably peaceful. Especially in the summer. The landscape is flush with rhododendron, mountain laurel, sweet gum, native azaleas, ferns, mosses – an abundance of native flora.

Spotlight: Calders Coffee Cafe 2

And when other towns across the South reach peak temperatures of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, Highlands rarely breaks into the 80’s. As I write this, temperatures in Americus are projected to top out at 96 degrees (one of many such days in July and August). Today’s projected high in Highlands? A crisp 73 degrees.

Moving to Highlands, North Carolina

So, amidst the backdrop of one of the most delightful summer landscapes of anywhere in the United States, the Hartmans make a new life for themselves. Nearly a year after moving to Highlands, they purchased a coffee shop on Main Street.

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Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Highlands became Calders Coffee Cafe on May 1, 2019. The date was coincidentally Leigh and Clay’s 20th wedding anniversary.

The name, “Calders,” is a nod to the early days of their relationship. It’s the name of a Scottish pub in Charleston where Leigh and Clay had one of their first dates.

It’s a Scottish-Gaelic word that means “stony rivers,” an apt descriptor of much of the Highlands-area landscape.

Becoming Coffee Shop Owners

Becoming coffee shop owners happened after two very successful and intense careers for both Leigh and Clay.

Leigh retired from 15 years at Bank of America where she worked as a business transformation executive, helping the financial giant navigate acquisitions during and after the financial crisis of 2008.

Clay retired after 25 years in the U.S. Navy where he served as an attack pilot, and had most recently worked for 10 years leading a North Carolina-based renewable energy company.

The early mornings, hard work, determination and entrepreneurship necessary for running a coffee shop came naturally to Leigh and Clay.

But what the couple was really looking for when they started Calders was a sense of community.

“I wanted a place where people could feel like they belong,” said Leigh, who had grown to appreciate the sense of community that Clay’s career in the Navy had brought to the family.

“In the Navy, you really learn this reliance on community. Everything depends on everyone else. If anything happened, I had an instant community,” she said. “When Clay was deployed, I’d wake up at 7 am., and my lawn would have already been mowed. Everybody adopts someone else. There’s very much that feeling that you belong.”

When they first purchased Highlands’s Main Street coffee shop, Leigh sensed that customers were concerned that they might lose the sense of community that Buck’s had cultivated for some 18 years.

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Clay Hartman, co-owner of Calders Coffee Cafe.

“Literally our first week, we had people who looked terrified that we would change. It was overwhelmingly clear that people wanted a positive experience from the company and our staff,” she said.

Fostering Community at Calders

In the year since the Hartmans have owned the coffee shop, they’ve made every effort to protect their customers, fostering a welcoming, approachable environment.

For starters, they kept all of the original staff from Buck’s. They also kept their price-points affordable. They added more lunch items. They kept Cafe Campesino on as their primary coffee offering (thank you!). They added beer, wine and cider to their menu. They added more grab-and-go and souvenir-style items for the tourists who flock to Highlands to fish, hike and cool off during the summer.

Since the on-set of the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve instituted social distancing measures, keeping their cafe open for carry-out only, and they’ve adhered to the local mask mandate. Most recently, they’ve been working on a pre-order and pick-up system where customers can bypass a line to pick up their pre-purchased food and drink orders.

Supporting Other Community-Oriented Businesses

Calders’s support for small-scale and mission-oriented businesses goes beyond their selection of Cafe Campesino coffee. Their wines come from small-production and family-owned producers around the world. They source Wehrloom Honey, an apiary based in Robbinsville, NC, where Leigh’s mom grew up. They sell Imladris Jams, which produces hand-crafted jams using fruits grown on nearby Western North Carolina farms.

They also source products from Erin Bakers and 1 in 6 snacks, two companies working to end food insecurity, and Clean Cause Sparkling Yeba Mate, which gives 50 percent of its profits to support recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

Plan a Visit to Calders

With their selection of products, their friendly staff and their emphasis on community, Calders is ready to welcome you for a visit.

They are open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Calders Coffee Cafe
384 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741

Learn more about their company story and their menu online.

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Inside Calders Coffee Cafe in Highlands, North Carolina.

bucks coffee cafe sign with antlers on top

Steve Clark has probably made over 1 million lattes since he moved to western North Carolina back in the early 2000’s.

Watching him work on a busy morning is a lesson in barista efficiency. He stands squarely in front of a silver La Marzocco – never leaving his station – steadily building lattes and cappuccinos in the order they were received.

He pours rosettas and tulips and hearts with perfectly steamed milk. He casually chats with customers as he builds their drinks – one right after the other.

If you make it to Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Cashiers during the height of the summer (peak tourist time), you might have to wait 15-20 minutes for Steve to prepare your drink. Sometimes there are 12-18 people in line at one time. Steve never gets flustered.

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Steve Clark, co-owner of Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Cashiers, North Carolina.

A Day in the Life of a Coffee-Shop Owner

As the co-owner and operator of Buck’s Coffee Cafe, Steve is a work-horse. He’s at the shop by 4:30 a.m. and opens it by 7 a.m. When he’s not pouring lattes, he’s making breakfast sandwiches or lunch paninis. He supports his staff through the breakfast and lunch rushes, then heads home around 2 or 3 p.m. On most days, he’ll run 5 or so miles after work. The rest of the day is devoted to his three kids.

“I have to physically exhaust myself to quiet the mind,” he says. He’s easily been working this hard since 2008 when he opened the Cashiers location with Tommy and Linda Clark (no relation). Before that, he had been a key employee at the couple’s original Buck’s location in nearby Highlands.

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Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Cashiers, North Carolina.

When Steve met Buck’s

When Steve first moved to Highlands from Florida, coffee wasn’t on his radar.

“I was an alcoholic and an addict,” he said. And he credits Tommy and Linda with changing his life.

“Linda says I was their first hire, but that’s not how I remember it,” he said recounting the first time he met her. “I was literally walking down the street and she was trying to get in the front door and had her hands full, and I literally opened the door for her.”

That single gesture of kindness was the spark that earned Steve a job at the soon-to-open coffee shop in Highlands, as well as a place to live. “The house I had been living in burned down,” he recounted, explaining that an apartment above the coffee house served as his home for many months.

Later, his work at Buck’s introduced him to the woman who would become the mother of his children. “Although we’re not together anymore, I have three children as a result. I don’t think I would have the family that I have now if I didn’t work here.”

And, becoming a dad was the impetus for his sobriety. “There’s a good chance I’m dead or in jail without them,” he said.

Working for Tommy and Linda at the Highlands coffee shop offered Steve a foundation for how to manage people. According to Steve, Tommy and Linda take care of people “for the long-haul,” and they did things like offer health insurance to employees long before other coffee companies were doing such a thing.

two men pose for a picture
Steve Clark (left) and Tommy Clark (no relation) are partners in business at Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Cashiers, North Carolina.

Leading with Kindness

Now, Steve treats his own employees – mostly college-aged, seasonal staffers – with the same support and trust he got from Tommy and Linda.

“It’s very important that my employees know that as long as they’re making a good effort, then I’ve got their back,” he said. “It’s okay if they make a mistake. It’s even OK if they make a big mistake, as long as they’re showing up on time and not being disrespectful.”

The welcoming and supportive culture Steve fosters at Buck’s in Cashiers extends to all customers – no matter their background or socio-economic level. “It’s important to me that everyone feels comfortable here,” he said. And to that end, Buck’s remains open year-round for locals. During the slow winter months, the Cashiers’ population dwindles back down to its permanent residents, which the 2010 census lists as 157 people.

A single random encounter with Tommy and Linda radically changed Steve’s life. And because of their kindness, he is forever changed.

“They mean a lot to me. If my kids end up being similar to Tommy and Linda, I’ll be blissfully happy. Just absolutely blissfully happy.”

Tommy, Linda and Steve opened Buck’s Coffee Cafe in Cashiers in 2008. In addition to coffee and light food items, the location also offers a collection of wines, and artisan-designed home decor, including paintings by Tommy and Linda’s daughter, Dawne Raulet. In 2019, Tommy and Linda sold the Highlands store to Leigh and Clay Hartman, who have since rebranded it as Calders Coffee Cafe.

Stop by Buck’s
Buck’s Coffee Cafe
6 NC-107
Cashiers, NC 28717

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Home furnishings, wines and artwork are also available to purchase inside Buck’s in Cashiers.
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The coffee bar at Buck’s in Cashiers.
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Buck’s special dark roast blend in Cashiers.
Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 12

Written by Dawn Daniels McNear

Many people ask, “What is Juneteenth? What’s wrong with the Fourth of July? Why does everything have to be about separation? Can’t we all just get along?” The quick answers are African-American Freedom Day, everything and nothing, it’s not and yes, but it takes everyone being invested in diversity, equity and inclusion.

My upbringing was very diverse. I grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, attended racially diverse schools, and never felt that I stood out as an African American until I got to my predominantly white university. I majored in Cultural Anthropology, Sociology and Black World Studies, but I don’t remember Juneteenth ever being taught.

I learned that Independence Day was for white Americans, because in 1776, African Americans were still considered property with no rights.

I always knew that July 4th wasn’t for “us” (African Americans), but I didn’t know what “our” replacement holiday was. As a young child, I remember there being many different fireworks shows. African Americans watched in the park (in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and white people watched from their individual suburbs. I vividly remember 1976 and all the celebrations related to the United States’ 200th year of freedom. Every ad, every billboard, every label showed white people in celebration for this anniversary. I didn’t
know any black person who was excited about July 4, 1976.

I learned that Independence Day was for white Americans, because in 1776, African Americans were still considered property with no rights. But, being a good American citizen, I celebrated the fourth of July like every other American; hot dogs, fireworks and a day off work.

Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 13
Juneteenth flag: American Red, White and Blue with
the Texas star and a “new” bursting star to celebrate freedom.

Independence Day for African Americans: June 19, 1865

As an adult, I learned that Juneteenth, a mash-up of the words June and nineteenth, was Independence Day for African Americans. Juneteenth commemorates the day (June 19,1865), in Galveston, Texas, that Union General Gordon Granger with 2,000 troops read the federal orders proclaiming that all enslaved people were free. The reading came a full 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. News didn’t travel fast back then, and slave masters were in no rush to release their free labor. Slave masters actively suppressed news of the emancipation in Confederate territories that were not under Union control.

I can’t even begin to understand the collective feelings of joy, fear, disbelief, and freedom. What followed the reading of the federal orders is now called “the scatter.” African Americans left their enslavement and “scattered” throughout the United States looking for family members. My ancestors left Mississippi and scattered to Colorado, Kansas and Illinois. It tickles me to know that some slaves started “the scatter” before General Granger even finished reading the federal order.

It makes sense to me that every American should want to celebrate the day when EVERY AMERICAN was free. That day would be June 19th.

I know many people will ask “Why don’t we all just celebrate the Fourth of July? It’s already a tradition, and everyone loves it?” I would retort with “Everything that’s a tradition is not good and upwards of 13% of the US population (2010 US Census) was not free in 1776. It makes sense to me that every American should want to celebrate the day when EVERY AMERICAN was free. That day would be June 19th .

July 4th and June 19th

When we celebrate July 4th, Independence Day, we are celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. That document declared that the 13 colonies were no longer subject to the British monarch. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed 87 years later, and it took 2 ½ additional years for all enslaved peoples to be freed. I don’t think that we need to get rid of one celebration to enjoy the other; we need to give room and acknowledgement for the importance of each day.

I don’t think that we need to get rid of one celebration to enjoy the other; we need to give room and acknowledgement for the importance of each day.

This year (2020), it feels more important than ever for my family and I to celebrate Juneteenth. Every day in Southwest Georgia I see remnants of these “traditions,” and I don’t love them! It’s a slap in the face to see confederate flags, streets and buildings named after known slave masters and to have someone paint a confederate flag on my daughter’s cheek as part of a face painting activity at a street fair.

In Germany today you will not find a single public statue lauding Adolph Hitler. The government recognizes that 1) They lost the war and 2) Any adoration of a figure who hurt and killed so many of their citizens is heartless and hurtful. I remind people that the south DID NOT WIN the war! Why are we celebrating the losing side and throwing it up in the face of our citizens who are descendants of slavery? It’s heartless and hurtful.

Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth is not a Federal holiday, but in recent years many corporations have begun celebrating their African American employees by recognizing June 19th as a corporate holiday. A few of these corporations are Google, Habitat for Humanity International, JC Penny, Nike, NFL, The New York Times, Target,Twitter and Vox Media. Although Juneteenth is not a national holiday it is celebrated in most metropolitan cities with parades, rodeos, cookouts, street fairs, prayer services, fireworks and family gatherings.

Juneteenth Celebrations Generally Include:

  • Singing of the Black National Anthem
  • Recognition of the Juneteenth flag
  • Drinking of Red soda (recipe below)
  • Eating Red Velvet Cake, watermelon, and Marcus Garvey Bean Salad (mixture of red, black and green beans)
  • Barbecues and family get togethers

Red Foods Served on Juneteenth

The eating of red food items is thought to be in recognition of West African cultures, where red is a symbol of strength and spirituality.

The color red also symbolizes the blood of millions of enslaved people who suffered and died. The red soda was initially made with strawberries, hibiscus and kola nuts. Red soda is now a common staple at Juneteenth celebrations.

I pray that everyone stay safe, enjoy your loved ones and celebrate Juneteenth with the knowledge that America has come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. Happy Juneteenth!!!

Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 14

Strawberry Ginger Ale Recipe

Red soda is now a common staple at Juneteenth celebrations. Here’s a recipe for Strawberry Ginger Ale:


  • 2 ounces chopped peeled ginger
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 oz sugar
  • About 1-quart chilled club soda


  • Combine water and sugar and over medium heat bring to a boil; stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add ginger and strawberries. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat cover and let steep for 1 hour.
  • Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on strawberries and ginger and then discarding.
  • Chill syrup in a covered bowl or jar until cold.
  • Mix syrup with club soda to taste (start with ¼ cup syrup per ¾ cup club soda, then adjust to taste).

About the Author

Dawn Daniels McNear is an Americus-based friend of Café Campesino.  She moved to Americus 13 years ago with her husband and 3 children to continue her work with Habitat for Humanity. She approaches life with humor and radical candor. Her life motto is “If you don’t like me that’s okay, get in line with the others. Life is to short to let people who don’t matter, matter!

Smiling customers pose for a photo after a coffee training class.

Words by Christy Deen. Images courtesy of Drip-Thru Coffee®

Training is a key process in any company that wants to maintain mastery in its field, and companies in the coffee industry are no different. On-going training is important for staff development, product consistency and empowering a team to rock this third wave of coffee.

Drip-Thru Coffee® has and continually partners with Cafe Campesino’s Coffee Training Lab to fulfill these training goals. My husband and I successfully completed the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)’s Barista Level One certification with the Coffee Training Lab before opening our first Drip-Thru Coffee® location.

Coffee Training Lab instructor helps student pour milk into mug.

Employees at both our locations have completed Espresso & Milk 101 with Hannah Mercer, an authorized SCA trainer and education coordinator for Cafe Campesino and its sister roastery in Florida, Sweetwater Organic Coffee.

Most recently, we took several baristas to a latte art class at the Coffee Training Lab in Americus, Ga., at Cafe Campesino. It was a great way to step back from the daily grind (“ha ha”) at the shop and really focus on the craft and knowledge behind creating latte art.

the main takeaway for our staff is to never stop learning. There is so much knowledge in the world to gain!

Christy Deen, co-owner of Drip-Thru Coffee®
smiling barista shows off his latte art

Fun was had by all, and in addition to learning about latte art, the main takeaway for our staff is to never stop learning. There is so much knowledge in the world to gain!

Whether you are a coffee enthusiast, barista-in-training, or coffee shop entrepreneur, the Coffee Training Lab has something to offer you! Be sure to check them out.

Christy has worked for over 20 years in the food -and-beverage industry. She’s managed restaurants from the Walt Disney World Theme Parks to the Atlanta airport. She and her husband Martin opened their first location of Drip-Thru Coffee® in Stockbridge, Ga., in 2016. Shortly thereafter, they opened a second location in College Park. Drip-Thru Coffee® brings good, fast coffee to Atlanta commuters without compromising quality or service. Learn more about their company at:

As a wholesale customer of Cafe Campesino, Drip-Thru Coffee® receives periodic training that is tailored to its needs. In addition to managing wholesale-customer training, the Coffee Training Lab offers Barista and Brewing classes that are a part of the Specialty Coffee Association‘s Coffee Skills Program . The Lab’s 2020 SCA classes have recently been listed online. Visit: for dates and locations.

PeachDish supports farmers.

Atlanta meal kit service puts sustainable farmers & food first.

PeachDish, a national meal kit service based in Atlanta, exists to enrich and nourish lives through good food. They have high standards. They are an industry leader in quality, creativity and customer service. They’re also building transparent, innovative, and wholesome food systems.  Every day, PeachDish strives to bring the best, sustainably-grown food to an audience that cares.

Better Farming means Better Food

President Judith Winfrey came to PeachDish with over a decade of sustainable agriculture experience. Therefore, she knows that nutrient-dense, organic food can make a difference in our bodies and our lives. Plus, she knows that good farming practices can benefit the environment. When we eat food that is grown with care and attention – without being doused in chemical inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) – we are showing that same care and attention to ourselves and our planet.

Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds examine a new crop of lettuce in the evening sun.
Joe Reynolds and Judith Winfrey at Love is Love Farm, a sustainable, Atlanta-based farm supplying PeachDish.

As a result, this positivity resonates through our lives and our community.  We’re more alive, more whole, more in-tune, more responsive, more available.  In short, we’re better people when we eat better food. This may sound too simplistic or pollyannaish to you. But think about it this way: food is the only thing we ever buy that literally becomes who we are.  It provides the building blocks for everything we are: our brain, our eyes, our skin, our muscles and our hearts.

Sustainable Farms Showcased at PeachDish

A farmer drops off produce at the PeachDish warehouse Monday morning, and it’s packed to go out that afternoon. When you have better ingredients, you cook better, eat better and live better. Understanding your food, from seed to table, is the best way to integrate nutrition and wellness throughout your life.

We’re proud that PeachDish includes Cafe Campesino in its meal kit options and also sources ingredients from other farmers and artisans we respect and admire. Farms like Love is Love Farm, Rise ‘N Shine, Urban Sprouts, Decimal Place Farm, and businesses like Beautiful Briny Sea and more.

Like us, PeachDish sources from businesses that are working to make positive social impact. We could not be prouder to work with them. And we consider them an ally in the good-food movement.

Learn more about PeachDish, or take the plunge! Order a meal kit produced by some of the South’s most sustainable farmers.

A couple follows a PeachDish recipe, cutting tomatoes and preparing other vegetables to cook for a meal.
Support the South’s leading sustainable farms and businesses by preparing PeachDish meals at home.
Richland Rum: Richland Distilling Company 15

Richland Distilling Company is located in Richland, GA. The owners Erik and Karin Vonk and master distiller Jay McCain are helping put Richland on the map by making authentic, quality products. Garden and Gun calls Richland Rum “the smooth amber liquid that had brought new life to this town.” It is a family-owned business and makes Richland Rum exclusively.

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White Oak Pastures: Grass-fed Georgia Livestock 16

We believe White Oak Pastures is a gem in Southwest Georgia, and we are so thrilled to have them featured on this year’s Southwest Georgia Tour de Farm. Primarily a livestock farm and processing facility, White Oak Pastures stands out nationally for its sustainable farming practices and commitment to land stewardship, animal husbandry and organics. Plus, the folks who work there are just so darn innovative, creative and committed to doing the right thing for their community, the land they live on and the animals that feed them.

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