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Nonprofit coffee shop aims to help recruit volunteer firefighters

The owner of Second Alarm Brewhouse in Pasadena, Md., Duane McKee, has been a volunteer firefighter himself for more than 20 years


By Donovan Conaway
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

PASADENA, Md. — Second Alarm Brewhouse in Pasadena is pioneering a new business model: Great coffee that helps local volunteer firefighters.

The shop has opened its doors in Pasadena and celebrates today. But instead of cutting a ribbon, they will be cutting a hose.

The coffee shop was originally a coffee truck, and owner Duane McKee is a volunteer himself. It is the first of its kind, or at least to Mckee’s knowledge. The coffee shop is a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status. Money made will be used to develop a marketing firm to volunteer fire companies recruit and raise funds.

McKee also hopes to expand the brewhouse with a liquor license and operate as a pub at night. He plans to cut a firetruck in half and mount it to the front of the building. The front of a truck adorns the wall indoors.

“I’m not interested in making money; I just want to help,” McKee said. “This will bring awareness to the volunteer fire service, which it so desperately needs. (The) combination of the two different business models allows a dichotomy of customers and visitors that maximizes our mission’s success.”

McKee has been a volunteer firefighter for 20 plus years and was volunteering at the station next to the location of the shop. He is currently a member of the Riviera Beach Volunteer Fire Company in Pasadena and Glenn Dale Fire Association in Prince George’s County. He started volunteering when he drove by a station and saw a help wanted sign.

“Everybody can do it, and once you’re in... you’re in. Running into a fire truck is addicting,” McKee said. “Coffee is a staple in a firehouse, just like it would be in a police station or a newsroom.”

Dave Crawford, chief of Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company, said the more people know about volunteer firefighting, the better the chance to draw in personnel.

“This a great concept and marketing is something we need to work on,” Crawford said. “I have to back (McKee) on this idea. We always need money and personal.”

Of the total number of firefighters nationwide, about 33% are career firefighters, and 67% are volunteers, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s most recently available report.

“There are people in the community that are accountants, lawyers, financial planners; we don’t need you to drag a hose but you could help us run the corporations, we also need admin members,” Crawford said.

It also helps coffee is a staple in firehouses. Firefighters work long shifts with periods of high and low activity depending on call volumes. There is always a pot of coffee on in his fire station, Crawford said.

The brewhouse will have volunteer staff on the weekends. A conference room will be available for bookings.

McKee said he would be contracting food trucks weekly to provide food in the parking lot. As for the coffee, the coffeehouse has its own blend from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co. called, “The firehouse blend.” Chesapeake Bay Roasting is a local Anne Arundel County business and the only beans the shop will use. Everything will be brewed in house, McKee said.

If this coffee shop is successful, McKee wants to bring more to other counties and help local volunteer fire services.


Second Alarm Coffeehouse is located at 8510 Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena. For more information, visit


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