PIERCETON — David Taylor has welcomed thousands of patrons to 18th century Europe.
And they never left downtown Pierceton.
For 12 years, his Blue Lion Coffee House served as a local mecca for devotees of specialty-roasted coffee, international cuisine and exquisite pastries, enjoyed amidst the chatter of friends, music performed by regional talent and artwork displayed by budding Picassos and Rembrandts.
“The 18th century European style means it was not just a place to get food and coffee,” said Taylor, a Lincoln, Neb., native who moved to Pierceton in 1957. “It was a place for political discussions and musicians, a social gathering place for political and social and artistic people, as well as anybody else.”
The venue hosted weddings, bachelor and engagement parties, birthday gatherings, graduation parties and other festivities. For several years a church met there Sundays.
The back room of the coffeehouse sported a stage for the musicians and doubled as a banquet room. “I kept the music separate from the eating area so people could either listen to music or carry on a conversation,” said Taylor, who booked several hundred artists during the coffeehouse’s tenure.
The all-inclusive slate of genres included blues, bluegrass, rock, folk, classical, country and western, Irish folk music and more. “The goal was to provide as wide an exposure as possible.”
Blue Lion’s notability as a music and art venue originated with Taylor’s open-mindedness. “I would tell the artists, ‘I am not your critic,’” he said. “You are free to do what you want. Having no rules created a symbiosis between the musicians and the audience. It was an open forum in the most complete sense.”
The Blue Lion was also a place for Taylor’s culinary and coffee roasting experimentation.
“I have hundreds of cookbooks and I’m always scouring for new recipes,” he said.
One surprise hit at the coffeehouse was Transylvanian peasant soup. “It’s basically liver soup,” he said. “It smelled terrible when I started making it, but I had already bought the ingredients. The customers liked it and ate it right up.”
Early on, Taylor hired a renowned European pastry chef from Atlanta, whose tenure was short lived. “One Indiana winter was all he could take and he accepted an invitation to work in Florida.” Before he left, though, he spent three months training Taylor’s son, Erick, who served as Blue Lion’s pastry chef for the next nine years.
“People still tell me how much they liked his food,” said Taylor.
The coffeehouse carried more than 30 flavors of coffee, all developed and roasted by Taylor, who won third place in the 2002 international “Roastmasters Challenge Cup” competition in Wisconsin.
But week after week of 7 a.m. to midnight workdays eventually compelled Taylor to surrender his labor of love to new owners and the Blue Lion Coffee House last closed its doors in 2012.
Taylor now operates Blue Pearl Antiques in a small and very crowded shop one block south of the former coffeehouse’s location.
He still roasts “100 to 150 pounds of coffee a week” for “personal customers” in a cramped 6-by-16 foot makeshift roastery which once served as the shop’s back porch.
He still ships coffee across the United States and sells his product at Civil War and pioneer reenactments and festivals throughout the Midwest.