THE FTC STORY
In the year 2012, on an unseasonably warm winter day, Lori Valentine walked to Moyer to pick up her little ones. On her walk, she noticed Three French Hens was closing and a strong feeling came over her. This space should be a community coffee shop.
She imagined how a central coffee shop could offer a space for the community to gather. Moms like her would have a place for kids to play while catching up over coffee. Teens could sit together after school. Families could enjoy breakfast and one another on weekends and build relationships with others.
She shared her crazy idea, because it seemed crazy, with her husband, David and together they pursued the possibility of opening up a community coffee shop. Their marketing and design backgrounds ensured a great logo and t-shirt design, but they knew little about starting a business nor much about coffee—except they both loved it! Friends offered time and talent, they got connected to business experts, educated themselves on coffee and health safety rules, and the journey of Fort Thomas Coffee was underway.
The vision came alive and Fort Thomas Coffee became a gift to the town. For 7 years, the Valentines served the community well, made special friendships, received support from their community, and taught their children the value of serving and being part of a family team with a mission.
PASSING THE BATON
On that same unseasonably warm winter, Justin and Christine Smalley received a strong feeling to embrace community. They began setting up their home as a space for people to gather and intentionally sought opportunities to connect with others. They joined charity organizations, signed up for community-offered courses, volunteered at school and went to local events. They invited people into their home for dinner groups, study groups, play dates, parties, meetings, shopping events, and even music concerts, utilizing their intentionally renovated basement complete with coffee bar. The Smalley’s two children grew up embracing community as a part of their family rhythm and team mission. They believed their family’s mission would begin in their home, but the day would come when that mission would move out into the community.
In 2019, that day came and it felt like a gift. The Valentine’s announced, “Our hope is to find the next owners who will continue the mission of Fort Thomas Coffee, furthering it as a community hub and making the shop even better for the people of this town who truly deserve an amazing spot.” Not a day passed before the Smalley’s responded to the announcement. Christine was a regular at FTC from the start and well-acquainted with the value it offered the community. And Fort Thomas is not just any community to her. Christine’s roots go deep with her maternal family ancestor, Henry Schriver, building many important buildings in town, the most famous being our landmark stone tower at the entrance of Tower Park. She grew up on Henry Avenue where Henry and his family lived in the 1800s. She also lived in the home her paternal great grandfather, Clem Fennell, built on North Fort Thomas Avenue in the early 1900s. The Fennell’s have invested in the community and the Fort Thomas Independent School System for as long as she can remember, and the Smalley’s have enjoyed following suit with their children at Woodfill Elementary School.
THE FUTURE OF FTC
As a family, The Smalleys are excited to continue the mission of Fort Thomas Coffee, furthering it as a community hub, and making it even better for our town who truly deserves an amazing spot. Thank you Valentines!
Six months after the baton was passed, the Smalleys held an official ribbon cutting ceremony opening this gift to the community. A season of hard work was celebrated. Although FTC never closed, it was a Grand Re-Opening of sorts as new hours, a new menu, new merchandise, and a new larger barista team were presented to the community. A lot of new has been happening at FTC. The team looks forward to the season ahead where the focus will be on consistency, rhythms, and serving well this community that is known and loved.