Community Heroes: Recent Transplant Leads Downtown Tyrone Renaissance

“My dad’s sense of humor to never take things too seriously and my mom’s generosity and big heart definitely shaped me into who I am today,” said Shannon Rice, co-owner and manager of The Brew Coffee and Tap House in Tyrone

Like many small towns, the downtown business district in Tyrone has been in steady decline since the 1970s. Where there were once movie theaters, department stores, and specialty shops, there are now empty storefronts and eyesores.

But over the past several years, thanks to a new generation of young entrepreneurs, Tyrone’s downtown has grown and civic pride is coming back.

Coffee cup and unground coffee beans
The Brew sells locally roasted coffee from Elixr Coffee in Philadelphia, wines from University Wine Company in State College, and craft beer from various Pennsylvania breweries. (MacKenzie Hyde )

Leading the transformation is 33 year old Shannon Rice, co-owner and manager of The Brew Coffee and Taphouse, now in its third year of operation in downtown Tyrone. 

Rice, a recent transplant to Tyrone, sees potential as a small business owner in small-town America and passed on the high rent and competition of starting her business in a city for the opportunity and close-knit community of a small town.

She and her husband Rob Poust renovated a long-unused storefront on west 10th Street into a cozy and charming coffee shop that has a big-city feel. 

Their shop has quickly become a community hub for Tyrone residents to gather in an inviting space to enjoy coffee or craft beer and long chats.

If you go there more than once, chances are Rice will remember you from your first encounter. 

“So many people come in and bring their ideas, and once you start talking and listening to their ideas that they have been generating, things happen,” said Rice.

Rice grew up in Boalsburg, about 32 miles from Tyrone. She describes her upbringing as “a classic middle nineties, run-of-the-mill childhood.” 

Rice recalls having close neighborhood friends who would play outside all the time. 

“I had a great childhood. We weren’t wealthy but we were happy. I had great parents, a brother, sister, and all four of my grandparents were alive. We were very fortunate and blessed to be all close, physically and emotionally,” said Rice. 

She saw a similar atmosphere in Tyrone, which drew her to her adopted hometown. 

Rice’s love for the small-town values has not gone unnoticed, and that keeps her customers coming back. Her mission is people over profits, and to grow her business while unifying the community.   

Why did you choose Tyrone to start your business? 

“Because Tyrone needed it. That is the short, simple, and sweet answer. Tyrone really needed it. There is nothing here yet there is so much potential. We were also planting our roots here and starting our family here and we wanted to bring the community something that was desperately needed and wanted. We felt like we had the capability of offering this and we hope to be here for a very long time.”

“I hope that by us being here and me being a part of this community we can continue to help people to improve and grow because we see a ton of potential in this community and the only people stopping it are themselves.”

Shannon Rice in front of the business with a sign that says "join us for coffee."
Rice and her husband Rob Poust renovated a vacant storefront on West 10th Street into a charming coffee and brew house. (MacKenzie Hyde )

What was it like to open a new business in an unfamiliar small town?

“When we moved here we knew nobody. We made one friend when we had worked at Hops and Vines [an annual festival held in Tyrone]. Since opening The Brew we have met a ton of people and we feel like we know so many people in this town now. It is really awesome. People say, “Let’s go meet at The Brew!” People do interviews here, go on first dates, it’s crazy. If we could continue to be a staple in this town that would be something beyond my wildest dreams.”

Do you believe that The Brew has brought the community together?

“If I were to close my doors tomorrow that would be satisfying to hear someone say. That is all we wanted to build. A place that people could call home. It is not a lucrative business by any means and that is not why we are doing this. We have made a lot of very good friends that we call family now.”

How did you foresee yourself contributing to the growth of the town?

“Volunteering and putting as much time as I humanly can into helping all of these committees grow. Most of these committees have had all the same members for so long. Getting new blood and fresh ideas is always an awesome thing which is also a new way to get people downtown and involved.”