Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Art and a Cup: Young owner Makayla Burton has combined her favorite things at The Tiger Eye Coffee Shop

Coffee shops often look as dark as their freshly roasted stock-in-trade. Brown. Bleak. Minimalist. Industrial-looking.

A new café is breaking that mold, blending color and caffeine into a delicious, coffee-scented concoction.

The fledgling Tiger Eye Coffee Shop in Paxtang is as bold and bright as the rides on the Wildwood boardwalk, exuding homey charm and originality with its eclectic menu and decor.

The sign outside the pastel purple building, adorned with strings of white lights and the American flag, lists the three primary loves of 19-year-old owner Makayla Burton: Coffee. Art. Ice cream.

Chairs and tables are artfully arranged along Derry Street, with seats hand-painted purple, red and black with polka dots. Her father Robert, who is a co-owner, as well as her siblings, contributed their talents to the effort. Brother Jadon works with Makayla part-time.

Inside, Tiger Eye is part coffee shop, part art gallery, part ice cream parlor and all candy for the eyes. Even better, it’s bathed in the aroma of coffee beans and baked goods.

The laid-back hipster vibe is exactly the feel that Burton wanted to create in a site that was once the home of Giordano’s Pastries.

Paintings on the sponge-painted walls are the handiwork of former classmates at the Capital Area School for the Arts (CASA) in Strawberry Square and other local artists. Chic throw rugs hug hardwood floors, and vibrant throw pillows spice up furniture. Each table is a glossy finished tree slab holding a unique lamp.

Glass display cases along the walls hold pottery, unique wooden mugs, craft jewelry and three-dimensional art for sale. A print camelback couch, game table and children’s table are stationed toward the back, and a book, “The Ruminative Soul,” by Drew Dick, is on sale for poetry fans.

The shop has already attracted a loyal following. Parents taking their children to nearby Harrisburg Gymnastics stroll over. Patrons of the nearby Harrisburg Framing and the beach-themed Sea Shop —her dad’s shop—drop by for a jolt of java. Walkers, joggers and cyclists from the nearby Capital Area Greenbelt enter in Lycra, in search of smoothies and cold drinks. Music lovers can try their hand at the acoustic guitar propped up in the front window.

Makayla said that the shop’s specialty is avocado coffee, which is a cup of joe mixed with half an avocado, which takes the place of cream. Tiger Eye is the only place serving that healthy mash-up in the area.

Fit the Feeling

Burton admits that it’s not easy launching a business at 19, especially when you open in December 2019 and a global pandemic pulls the plug on your dreams three months later.

The shop was forced to close for a time then reopened with numerous precautions, including socially distanced tables, plexiglass at the counter, face masks, enhanced cleaning and hand sanitizer. Plans for live entertainment have been put on hold for now.

Through it all, Burton remains optimistic, kind and eager to please her customers. As a film and video major at CASA, she also has an eye for style and a passion for helping her fellow art lovers.

She said that the name of the shop has nothing to do with a boxer named Rocky and the familiar “Eye of the Tiger” theme song.

“I thought it just fit the feeling here,” she said.

She loves the rare tiger eye gemstone, which is the color of coffee, with a silky, yellow-and-brown luster and a reputation for bringing good luck.

After visitors secure their espresso, gluten-free muffin or Hershey’s ice cream, they can stay to sip, spoon, study, socialize and shop.

Burton can’t remember exactly when she decided to open up a coffee and ice cream shop, but she admits she has always loved coffee. She is in good company.

“I love the addition of the Tiger Eye Coffee Shop in the Borough of Paxtang,” said former mayor and current borough manager Keldeen Stambaugh. “It has enhanced our downtown area and is a community favorite, adding to our popular eateries within a few blocks.”

Stambaugh said that, because the municipality is small, most residents walk to downtown hot spots. For those who drive, a municipal parking lot across the street behind the municipal building/firehouse offers free parking.

“The Tiger Eye focuses on creating a warm, friendly environment and a great place to gather with friends and family,” Stambaugh said.  “They offer something for everyone. They sell coffee, tea and ice cream, but also have a big ‘little free library,’ in addition to displaying and selling artwork from a variety of artists.”

Paxtang, so close to splendid Victorian homes, the Harrisburg Mall and the car dealerships on Paxton Street, needed to stir up some creative juices.

“The artist atmosphere that is growing here in Paxtang is a big focus at the Tiger Eye,” Stambaugh said. “We hope this will encourage more artists to move into our borough.”

As a young, new business owner struggling to survive in a world transformed by a single-stranded virus, an art lover, and a coffee aficionado, Burton’s offering of cappuccino crunch ice cream seems especially fitting. Blending coffee and ice cream in artistic swirls, it is, like Tiger Eye, the best of all worlds.

The Tiger Eye Coffee Shop is located at 3418 Derry St., Paxtang. For more information, call 717-853-0974 or visit their Facebook page.

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