CARROLLTON, Va. (WAVY) — Breast cancer survivor and business owner Chemerre Wells reopened her coffee shop Sunday.
There was a line at 54 Beans Espresso Bar & Cafe on Carrollton Boulevard at 10:54 a.m. — the time the shop was set to reopen!
“I always heard people say they liked 54, but I didn’t realize it had become a sanctuary for people, and they would always say the peacefulness they would experience when they would come into the shop,” said Wells. “It’s one thing for people to say they care, and are concerned, but when people actually put action behind their words that’s just at a whole different level and I think I said this before. I just firmly believe that.”
Many people traveled from Atlanta, Virginia Beach and Norfolk to support the breast cancer survivor.
“I’m excited to make coffee and get back to chatting everybody up in town and getting the tea,” Wells said. “Just happy to be back in the community and providing a space for people to come.”
Wells called the last three years “surreal” after going through breast cancer treatments and a bilateral mastectomy. During the health scare, Wells got behind on her rent, which led to her landlord to locking up the beloved coffee shop.
On Oct. 5, Wells posting a heartfelt post announcing the shops closure.
As some of you may or may not know, last year was tough for me. Fighting cancer and running a business is not an easy task. I got behind on rent and today I was locked out of the shop. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. Life happens and I tried. Hopefully we won’t be gone too long. I appreciate everyone who supported 54 Beans. See you soon!
The same day, her friends Jamilia Shipman and Evyondea DeBerry created a GoFundMe.
“When we found out that Chemerre needed us, it was never a doubt that we weren’t going to step up and make sure that this gem still remained a part of our community,” Shipman said.
In just days, the Isle of Wight community raised $8,000.
“Every day I was trying to contain myself because I was just so overwhelmed by the love and by the quick response that we received,” Shipman said.
DeBerry then reached out to 10 On Your Side’s Kiahnna Patterson to help spread the word during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“The timing was horrible for Chemerre to have to experience,” Shipman said. “I have to think, from a positive aspect, that it was indeed divine timing because we were right in the midst of breast cancer awareness. People were aware. They’re paying attention. They were sensitive to breast cancer and encouraging people to get their mammograms and women’s health in general.”
After nearly one month since the closing, Wells’ church, Soteria Life Center, surprised her during Bible study with the rest of the money, raising more than $20,000.
“We were all shocked, minds blown, socks blown off,” DeBerry said. “It was very heartfelt. Everyone was so tearful that the community cared so much. I don’t think she realized how much this space meant to the community. [How much] her coffee meant to the community. [How much] her smile meant to the community. It was very easy to crowdfund for her because of what she had already built, the relationships she had already built with our customers.”
Wells plans to have two more reconstructive surgeries.
“There is a life after cancer that people don’t talk about,” Wells said. “I may be cancer free, [but] the effects of hormone medications still take a toll on you.”
The community of friends adds they will be here along the journey encouraging and inspiring her.
“I choose to firmly believe that more holds us together than separates us,” Wells said. “Just to see the good in people because people care. No matter what religion, no matter what their political views are, if someone is hurting, then people are there to help them.”
Wells says she will close the GoFundMe account today. She is looking forward to welcoming her friends back to the shop. Many people 10 On Your Side spoke with were moved to tears and called the shop their happy place.
“It’s more than coffee,” Wells said. “Coffee is the way to gets them in the door, but when they come in and experience 54 [Beans], that’s what keeps them coming back.”
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