Inside the doors of the Artful Bean in Bethany Beach, jazz or contemporary music usually graces the stereo system. Hand-blown glass decorates the store, along with ceramics, pottery and paintings, showcasing the work of artists from the local area and the region.
And while they admire the artwork and listening to the music, locals and visitors alike can sit at a café table and have a cup of gourmet coffee or tea and pastries made fresh every day.
The combination of art gallery and gourmet coffee shop gives the Bethany Beach area a unique touch of culture it needed, according to Artful Bean owner Kim Doughty, a potter who shows her own work in the store.
“I really want it to be a hub for people to come and hang out to appreciate the artwork of the talented people in the area,” said the Toms River, N.J., native who also co-owns the Melting Pot glass and ceramics studio in Dagsboro. “Bethany didn’t really have anything like that.”
Doughty studied pottery at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia before graduating in 2001. After a brief teaching stint, a classmate persuaded her to move to the Bethany Beach area in 2002 to open the Dagsboro studio and store.
While she enjoys the gallery on Main Street in Dagsboro, she said she wanted a spot with more adjacent “foot traffic” to draw more customers, showcase art and create a morning/afternoon cultural haven.
She opened the new café in January and, so far, the Pennsylvania Avenue store’s success has exceeded her expectations.
“Ever since (moving to the area) I’ve looked for a great location to showcase my work and others work who I admired and appreciated,” Doughty said. “There’s so much foot traffic. And there’s people coming from the big cities that really appreciate this kind of stuff. A lot of people that are coming here appreciate something that is locally made,” she added.
From turned wood by Dagsboro artist Tom Frey, to blown glass by another Dagsboro resident, Justin Cadagnaro, most of the artwork showcased in the store is for sale. Paintings by artists from across the local area and region are available, along with hand-made jewelry, prints and pottery.
One artist is from Maine and another resides in San Diego but most of the shown pieces are produced in this region, Doughty said.
“A lot of people like that idea that we do support local artists,” said Doughty, who is also a participant in the SouthEastern Delaware Artists Studio Tour (SEDAST). “We’ve had a great response so far to the artwork.”
And that’s not to mention the coffee. The store — which sits in the same spot at 20 Pennsylvania Avenue that formerly housed another coffee shop — has a full coffee bar, selling gourmet coffee, Italian espresso, various teas and fresh pastries.
The New York Times is also on sale daily and residents can always find flyers in the store about local poetry readings, art openings and more — all in the Bethany store, which definitely meets a need, according to its owner.
“It’s a convenient place,” Doughty said.