Where’s Waldos?


A decade of community-building arts puts Waldo’s on the map

By Karen Hendricks 

Its location makes Waldo’s & Company a bit mysterious. Much like the famous red-and-white striped illustrated character Waldo, waiting to be discovered among a busy background, Waldo’s & Company is hidden in plain sight, directly on Gettysburg’s Lincoln Square. 

There are two ways to enter the space. The first is through the gift store Lark. Once inside, look for the central staircase down to Waldo’s. That’s right—it’s underground, literally and figuratively. The second way to find Waldo’s is through a back alley off Race Horse Alley. Just look for the big typeset “W” signpost. This entrance demonstrates how the nonprofit is situated within the foundation of the very heart of Gettysburg.

Now that you know where it is, it’s even more fun to discover what Waldo’s is.

Like a Living Room

“I would call Waldo’s, ‘Where art meets community,’” says Rebecca Mueller, 29, owner of Gettysburg floral shop Locaflora and longtime Waldo’s board member. “We’re a coffee bar and art space, and those two things thrive together.”

Waldo’s is a coffeehouse open to the public and hosts concerts, open mic nights and other events, and it’s also a membership-based artist space, through artist studios and trade shops. 

Chris Lauer

Just like a gym membership provides access to weights, treadmills and other exercise equipment, Waldo’s trade shop memberships give artists access to a darkroom, printmaking and ceramics equipment, such as a pottery wheel, glazes and kiln firings. A gallery shop offers artists both exposure and sales. 

Waldo’s central space—much like a living room, except for the adjacent stage—is a place to foster conversation over coffee and other beverages.

“A lot of us have been baristas for a long time, so we started developing high-quality drinks, making everything in-house from scratch, and roasting everything here,” says Chris Lauer, 40, Waldo’s founder and director, who personally roasts Waldo’s coffee beans and concocts the kombucha. 

While you’ll find mocktails, espresso sodas, lattes and more on the menu, two things you won’t find are alcohol or prices.

“There were very few spaces where the community could gather, especially those under 21, that was relaxed, but wasn’t a bar,” Chris explains. “We’ve stayed with that mission [of no alcohol]because I had a place to go to when I was 16, where I could pretend to be an adult, and I thought that was incredibly important to the community.”

All drinks are free and donation based.

“That model has worked, and people have been very generous,” says Chris.

But the sense of community fostered by Waldo’s may be its biggest benefit. 

Home Base

“It’s a great homey atmosphere,” says Aalok Trivedi, 33, of Frederick, Maryland. “I couldn’t find a place in Frederick for printmaking, so I found Waldo’s and love it—the atmosphere and people there are fantastic.”

A freelance UX designer, Aalok missed his college days as an art and design major. He visits Waldo’s once or twice a week to create abstract screen prints.

“I love that screen printing combines process with improv—the best of both worlds, and I like that you can create multiple colors of one work,” he says.

Longtime volunteer and board member David Sheads, 44, of Gettysburg, has been involved in Waldo’s nearly from the beginning. 

An audio-visual tech for Mount St. Mary’s University, David keeps Waldo’s sound system running smoothly.  

“Waldo’s is the place I wish had existed when I was growing up in Gettysburg,” he says. “When you have a place where people are interested in music, arts and books, there are always good conversations. It’s kind of an immediate friends circle.”

Adams County native Callie Miller, 28, of Littlestown, has been a regular patron of Waldo’s since 2017.

“I’ve been across the country,” says Callie, “but this is a very special place—a very creative, authentic atmosphere, and I just love it.”

As one of Waldo’s studio artists, Callie’s genres have shifted from pen sketching to colored pencil, watercolors and prints—available in Waldo’s shop.

“I’ve never had a month when I didn’t sell art,” says Callie. She has another streak going at Waldo’s: Every Wednesday for years, she’s been behind the bar as a volunteer barista, where she enjoys talking with customers.

“Waldo’s is a healthy community—a space that influences people in a very positive way. It’s definitely been part of my growth and development as a person,” she says. “I was shy before—bullied most of my life. So it’s nice to find my people—people who are accepting. I’m proud to be part of something so impactful.”

Gettysburg College freshman Will Oehler, 19, of New Hampshire, visited Waldo’s for the first time last fall with his parents. 

“My mom said, ‘Will, this is a great place—you should join,’” he remembers. What sealed the deal was access to the darkroom. A self-taught photographer, Will’s grandfather and father worked at Kodak.

Speaking of Will’s father, he gave Waldo’s his stamp of approval based upon their chai tea.

“My dad has always been on the search for the best chai recipe,” he explains, “and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing—Will, you have to get their chai recipe,’ but it’s a secret recipe.”

The bigger organizational recipe, no secret, has created a flourishing arts community.

“Waldo’s is a place of great community growth and opportunity,” Will says, “like a giant drawing board for artists.” 

Waldo’s Birthday

A summer birthday party, tentatively planned for August, will celebrate Waldo’s 10-year anniversary. A birthday registry will allow Waldo’s fans to donate gifts and further enhance trade shop opportunities.

“More and more, I would love to see artists grow out of this space and become successful creators through artist entrepreneurship programs,” Chris explains.

With Waldo’s as proof, artists create much more than art.

“I just deeply appreciate artists,” Rebecca says, “and how they make the world a more vibrant place to be.”

What’s in a Name: 

How Waldo’s Got Its Start

Chris Lauer set off on the journey of a lifetime 15 years ago. The Minnesota native left his hometown with little more than a backpack and camping gear, bound for Philadelphia on foot. Four months down the road, something about Gettysburg made him stop in his tracks and stay.

“At the end of my journey, my greatest takeaway was that God would and could provide, which allowed me to live a little differently after that,” says Chris, “and I appreciated the necessity of being rooted in a community.”

Chris, who had studied studio art in college, found an apartment and studio space in an old warehouse along Stratton Street. A vintage sign read “Waldo’s” where Waldo Pepper once ran an auto-detailing business. Chris began putting out a shingle of his own—an “open studio” sign. When he rolled up the big paint-chipped garage door where cars once entered, people began venturing inside, and the Waldo’s community was born. Code enforcement officers shut down the public gatherings in 2015, and Waldo’s moved to its current location on Lincoln Square, having spent its first two formative years building its own engine for the arts.

“It was very organic,” he remembers. “It kinda became the place where we all hung out and dreamed about what we could do.”

Waldo’s & Company
17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg


About Author

Karen Hendricks

Karen Hendricks is a a lifelong journalist of 30+ years and plays an important role with the editorial team at CG. In addition to overseeing the social channels at the magazine, Karen is also an accomplished freelance writer. Her skills with pen and paper are only the tip of the iceberg, as she is also an avid runner, recently completing 50 races to benefit 50 causes for her 50th birthday. Learn more about this beautiful endeavor as well as her other passions by visiting www.hendrickscommunications.com.

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