Monthly car shows draw hundreds
Damien Callahan enjoys relaxation, coffee, car rides and conversation on his Sunday mornings. Though he noticed that many others share these interests, he struggled to find a community space where people could come together and partake in these things on a regular basis.
So he created Seacoast Cars and Coffee, an automotive show at the Mall at Fox Run in Newington that happens the first Sunday of every month from May through October. He encourages people to bring in anything and everything with wheels and chat, have a coffee and marvel at the variety of vehicles. As their slogan goes, “If it rolls, and you love it, bring it!”
Callahan, the founder of Seacoast Cars and Coffee, believes the defining feature of his monthly Sunday morning car shows is their diversity; he recalls going to many specific car shows, whether it was for muscle cars or imports, but never finding one in the area that embraced automotive culture holistically and provided a family-friendly, welcoming ambience.
“Everyone’s kind of calm and chill,” Callahan said, “and it’s a nice, different way of having a car show. You don’t have to be into cars to have a good time at this show; it’s a really nice way to spend a Sunday morning with family, with friends. And if you’re into cars it’s awesome because you get to kind of see a little bit of everything.”
Seacoast Cars and Coffee’s next event is Sunday, June 2, starting at 8 a.m. and is expected to draw anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people. As Callahan remembers, it wasn’t always this way, as Cars and Coffee started with humble beginnings.
Seacoast Cars and Coffee began in August 2014, when Callahan made a Facebook page that received 34 likes. Then, at their first car show at Roger’s Redliner Diner (which is now Me & Ollie’s Bakery and Cafe) in Portsmouth, he watched 34 vehicles show up.
“That was a good sign, [that] we had a 100 percent turnout,” Callahan said. “Next month that almost doubled for September [and then] grew again in October. … We came back the next year and at that point we were over 100 cars and it just kind of grew and grew and grew from there.”
Callahan watched a steep increase in popularity at his monthly event, so much so that he was forced to rapidly change venues, from Roger’s Redliner Diner, to Cinemagic in Portsmouth, to his current location at the Mall at Fox Run.
“We expected to take a year or two to fill Cinemagic but we actually filled it on the first event, the season opener that year,” Callahan said. “By 8:30 in the morning we filled the whole cinema behind the buildings, all through McKinnon’s [Market], all the [Roger’s Redliner] Diner, the 99 Restaurant; I mean, at that point, it was spilling out onto Route 1, so we knew we had to move.”
At their current location, Seacoast Cars and Coffee continues to cultivate a local tradition that draws people from all over New England, “from Rhode Island to Vermont,” according to Callahan.
“If you just walk through Cars and Coffee and look at the conversations people are having with each other, they all come together over their love for cars, bikes, trucks, whatever it is, it’s a passion,” Callahan said. “That’s been very cool to see. It’s not just one kind of person at these shows by any means, and we love that.”
Unlike many other car shows, Seacoast Cars and Coffee requires no registration, is completely free, doesn’t hand out trophies and never separates vehicles by classes, divisions or any other distinction. Callahan believes that this has had a hand in creating an accepting atmosphere that encourages conversation between owners of everything and anything.
One of Callahan’s fondest memories of the monthly show is when he witnessed a young employee of a body shop bring in a beat-up 1950s Chevrolet pickup truck that his boss gave to him, telling him that if he could fix it and get it to run, he could have it. So, the young man brought the truck to Cars and Coffee, where he found himself parked next to a brand new Lamborghini Aventador.
“I mean, the guy in the Lamborghini got out and wanted to go look at the old pickup truck and the kid in the pickup truck wanted to look at the Lamborghini, but that’s the point,” Callahan said. “That just says it all.”
Callahan is working to expand his love of vehicles and community even further, with plans to open the Seacoast Cars and Coffee Cafe inside the Mall at Fox Run in June. Within the 11,500-square-foot facility, Callahan plans to offer an open cafe workspace that will include a constantly changing six-vehicle and four-motorcycle display and consistent showings of Motor Trend and any number of Nascar and other vehicle races. While
Callahan hopes for a June 1 opening of the cafe, he said it may be pushed to mid-June.