‘Experience of fun and community’ at Town Run Tap House
By Mike Lewis
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — For the husband-and-wife team of Todd Cotgreave and Jessie Shanholtz, the goal was to live and work in Shepherdstown, a community they love.
The result is Town Run Tap House and Community Pub. The business not only serves up food and drink, it also showcases art, hosts live music and trivia nights, offers an arcade for children and welcomes nonprofit events. The business is in the old Southern States farm supply warehouse.
The decor showcases modern art as well as historic parts of the building’s heritage. At the moment, tropical plants that are in hibernation are arranged around a couch next to the art. A cardboard sign labels it the “Sad Plant Lounge.”
“We don’t make a lot of decisions that would make sense in a normal shop,” Cotgreave said.
“It’s true,” Shanholtz interjected with a laugh.
“But it works for Shepherdstown,” he said.
Shanholtz describes the menu as Appalachian food “taken up a notch.” Most of their customers are locals, she said.
Cotgreave and Shanholtz have adjusted their business model a few times to adjust to their community and the reality of operating just off the downtown, which can sometimes be busy with tourists.
“We haven’t stopped opening,” Cotgreave said, referring to those adjustments.
“We have to continually look for different revenue streams,” added Shanholtz.
Both have worked at a variety of jobs, including food and beverage establishments. Shanboltz brings an MBA to the mix.
“It seemed good on paper, and both of us have the skill sets for this,” Cotgreave said.
The two, who met while they were students at Shepherd University, haven’t changed their goal of being a “positive part of the community.” And members of the community have helped the business, too — like repotting those hibernating plans in the lounge.
“We do lots of events,” Shanholtz added. “We don’t charge a fee for nonprofits to have an event here.”
Cotgreave and Shanholtz, who have an 11-year-old daughter, also have kept a focus on the place being friendly for children and dogs. One end of the building is devoted to an arcade, and there are toys for youngsters to use.
“They don’t have to be quiet and sit at the tables,” Shanholtz said, while adding that the parents do have to keep an eye on their children.
“My absolute favorite is when the door opens and the kid is already running,” Cotgreave added.
So, first, what are your personal go-to favorites?
Our House Special No. 1 with pinto beans and ham hocks, collard greens and cornbread is our favorite — very Appalachian. The most popular with our customers is the Reuben sandwich with house-roasted corned beef and house-made sauerkraut. We’ve had some very positive and emotional responses to that sandwich.
There are a lot of places to eat and drink. What kinds of things do you do to set yourself apart?
With the food, we focus on getting the highest quality local and regional ingredients and using simple preparations and presentations that allow them to shine. Our atmosphere is very relaxed with plenty of space for families to let their kids have fun. And we have an arcade and an art gallery.
From a business standpoint, what are your biggest challenges and opportunities?
Being located in such a small town is both our biggest challenge and our biggest opportunity. Overhead is high, and it’s difficult in slow times to scrape by. But we go through those challenges with the other small businesses in town and so there is a nice atmosphere of cooperation and everyone pulling together. Also, being in Shepherdstown allows us to be a little more quirky than we might get away with in a larger population center.
What do you wish more people understood about your business?
We started this business with just the two of us and not a lot of money. So we chose to focus more on the quality of our product and the experience of fun and community for our guests, rather than on luxury furnishings and equipment. We have a very eclectic atmosphere that comes from our desire to recreate some of the experiences we both had growing up in West Virginia and visiting hyper-local mom-and-pop places that are unapologetically unique.
How do you juggle your personal and professional responsibilities?
We’re a good team. We both have a weird way of looking at the world and a desire to do things ourselves. We prioritize our family above everything else, and that drives our ambition to make things work. There are struggles, but we are the kind of people who just keep getting back up anytime something knocks us down.
Outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?
Right now there really isn’t much but work for us, but the original drive to create this place was to be a positive part of the community. We love Shepherdstown and have been a part of the arts and culture scene here for decades. Some of our favorite customers are the nonprofits who use our space for gatherings and fundraisers. We really enjoy being able to offer support to organizations in the community who work toward positive change.