Ava Showalter and Sydney Coffman Phillips first met in nursery school and have remained friends ever since.
Graduating from Broadway High School in 2019, they each forged their own path toward owning their own businesses.
Ava went on to VA Tech, graduating in May 2023, with a BS in Agribusiness Management. Sydney went to college for 2 years, then took a gap year, trying to decide what direction her life should go, and working on her photography business.
Growing up, they would spend time together at Showalter’s Orchard, owned by Ava’s family. They both had an early interest in photography, and when not working at Showalter’s, they would ride a Gator around the orchard in their free time taking pictures.
Ava said, “Sydney and I go way back – we’ve practically know each other our whole lives. It’s such a cool perk when you’re friends with someone who is into photography, because we’ve got a treasure trove of photos from our childhood! Even though our paths have taken different turns, the fact that we are both building businesses in our hometown is like adding a fresh layer to the foundation of our friendship. It’s pretty special.”
In 6ht grade, Ava’s parents got her a camera, and she and Sydney would drive the Gator around the property, taking photos, throwing paper butterflies into the air, experimenting with taking silhouette photos. “It was so much fun!” exclaimed Sydney. Sydney’s mother, Laura, took the girls to King’s Photo for a basic beginner class in photography.
In middle school was when Sydney started taking a real interest in photography. When in high school, she started working on the yearbook, building a foundation in photography, becoming the head photographer and the photography editor. She would do family portraits on the side, and senior photos, honing her craft.
When she took her gap year during college, she decided to pursue the photography full time, with the connections she had established, and see where it took her.
On the other hand, while in college, Ava “took on the role of household chef, whipping up dinner for my roommate and myself most nights of the week.” When she was younger, she would help at the Martin Luther Lutheran Church food booth at the Bergton Fair. “Those early experiences gave me a taste of the hustle and bustle of serving food to folks.”
When Ava and her older brother were young, her parents “made it quite clear that we needed to gain some work experience outside of the orchard before thinking about returning to the family business. I’ve always been someone who’s eager to go the extra mile, and my aspirations leaned heavily toward entrepreneurship. It didn’t take me long to realize our town was seriously lacking a local coffee shop. Then. As fate would have it, my parents offered me a unique opportunity to lease their “donut” trailer and combine it with a coffee shop. It’s been quite the journey so far!”
Sydney thinks it is quite poetic, that she started at the orchard as a child, and now she is back here taking portraits with Showalter’s as one of her many backdrops. She has come full circle in a sense.
Ava and Sydney have remained friends, and in another twist, Sydney’s experiences at Showalter’s had given her a love for plants. Sydney’s Succulents is another of her entrepreneurial sidelines. Her plants and photography, along with working at JJ’s Ice Cream, is how Sydney funded her 2 years at Bridgewater College.
Her photography takes her to many beautiful places. Along with doing portrait sessions on the client’s property, she will travel to some of our area’s most beautiful spots. Skyline Drive is a favorite location, along with any place that has a body of water, because “you can build with the reflections”. Sydney has favorite times of the day, where the sun’s position in the sky creates just the right lighting. “Even within a small space, you can make everything beautiful. That’s what I enjoy about it!” Photography takes her to places and people she might not ordinarily cross paths with. Her photography has been published and won her awards, which Sydney is most grateful for!
A favorite is her high school senior portraits – “The graduates are just so vibrant and hopeful, and excited in what they are going to do after high school, and it makes me happy to see them happy!” That light from within her subjects definitely shines through in the photos Sydney takes.
Orchard Roots Café, according to Ava, is “pretty much rooted at Showalter’s Orchard, where we have a strong presence. However, the versatility of having a trailer is what excites me. After apple season, I’m considering taking it to different places during the week and exploring opportunities at special events on the weekends. The beauty of having a mobile set-up is the flexibility it offers. Creating the menu, applying the skills I learned at Virginia Tech, has made the journey even more satisfying.” Using locally sourced items is important, bringing her wheeled café full circle.
Both Sydney and Ava are doing quite well, and only beginning their individual entrepreneurial journeys. A success story of two friends from Broadway High School who made their dreams come true!
You can reach Sydney on Facebook
Syndey Coffman Photography, LLC- Harrisonburg VA Senior Photographer
Sydney’s Succulents and her photo notecards can be found at J&B Country Store, Broadway, VA
Ava Can be found on Facebook Orchard Roots Café
17768 Honeyville Rd, Timberville, VA
During orchard harvest season – Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat 9am-5pm, Tues and Wed 9am-2pm As they transition into winter months, check Facebook for hours