Just one year in, and Coastars Coffee has sealed the transformation of Lake Worth's South "J" Street into Little Portlandia. Young persons (and those young of spirit) with interesting hair and vintage and/or steampunk gear bicycle over to lead the digital life, be artsy, sip craft coffee and gab.
It's just what owners Chris Palacio and Liz Brach had in mind -- or something like it. And to celebrate they're throwing a party Saturday night, with a lineup of local musicians including Sweet Bronco, Grave Sights, and Peace Arrow.
Here's what Chris and Liz had to tell us the other day about themselves, their place, and the coffee scene in general.
New Times: It's a been a year and you're already the hub of a community. Do you feel like an institution? Or do you feel you should be institutionalized?
Chris: It's one of those two options?
Chris: We wanted this to be a place for community activities and events. A forum for people to show art, photography. People know about our art openings and open mics. I'm glad we've accomplished that.
Liz: It's gotta stay mom and pop.
You don't want to develop into a brand?
Chris: That's a whole other skill set. We use, our main roaster is Counter Culture out of North Carolina. We have guest roasters like Intelligentsia, Mad Cat. I think that roasting coffee's its own separate thing.
Liz: Chris has mastered the art of coffee making, though.
You're coffee nerds now? Is that cool?
Chris: I'm comfortable with it.
What's the biggest surprise in your first year here?
Liz: Everything we got from the locals. The generosity of the people around us.
Chris: I wasn't surprised about that. I was surprised how quickly local people discovered us. I wasn't sure how much of a coffee community there was here. I thought there could be, based on what I saw working at Harold's.
Liz: It was "Oh, my god! We've finally got a coffee shop! It's cool!"
What's been the biggest difficulty?
Liz: [makes cash money motion with hand]
Chris: When the average ticket item is three or four dollars you need to do a lot of business...
Liz: Make a lot of coffee...
Chris: ...to meet your overhead.
Liz: The hours are long. It's like having an infant.
Chris: Long hours and trying to make everyone's experience the best we can.
What do you drink on your days off?
Chris: We go to other coffee shops. I'll stop in at Harold's. At Habitat, which is closed now. But Subculture is opening soon and we'll probably stop in there.
Is that Rodney Mayo's thing? Going in where Habitat was?
Liz: Right next door on Clematis, a few buildings down. It's a huge space.
What does Rodney know about coffee? Can he pull that off?
Liz: He'll pull it off. He's got a good team.
Chris: Sean, from Habitat, is a good guy. He's gonna be handling the roasting and coffee management there, I believe.
They're going to roast...
Chris: They're going to roast their own. I was thinking they'd be on the "disloyalty card" that we have. It'll be nice to tie everyone together. The number of coffee shops on that card is growing.
Liz: Rodney asked me if he could be on the card.
That's awesome. Rodney never asks to join anything. As far as I know.
Liz: [laughs] Except when he encourages you to open a coffee shop. [laughs] Then he opens one.
Pablo at Beat Cup told me, claims, he urged you on to do this. "I told Chris to do it," he said. That true?
Liz: It was Keith from Harold's that really was the most encouraging person.
He didn't mind you splitting off?
Liz: Yeah. It was weird at first. But then he went with us to the coffee convention last year, in Boston. It was cool. We got plugged in. Got to meet other owners.
When was the last time you were in Starbucks?
Liz: To be honest, I was very desperate the other day and we were in a gas station. I got a little double shot thing. But walked into a Starbucks? Walked into a Starbucks? Not since we opened. Oh. Once in Boston during the coffee convention, because we were curious.
Chris: Yeah, I think that was the last time. In Boston.
Liz: I think we saw some Starbucks reps there, because the convention was there. You could tell there was a presence, in central Boston.
You sort of owe something to Starbucks though. Everybody in the coffee business now owes something to Starbucks, in a sense, don't they?
Chris: Before there was Starbucks coffee culture here was Folger's and Maxwell House and stuff.
Liz: Freeze-dried coffee.
Chris: A lot of people started drinking lattes and cappucinos with Starbucks. We wouldn't have what we have -- it's a progression that happened and they were a big part of it.
Can we expect anything new and different from Coastars in the coming year?
Chris: We've ordered totes. And some T-shirts. We want to expand the retail selection as far as coffee equipment. We'll offer coffee lessons, home brewing lessons. We'll do some comparing, some tastings. As long as the interest is there we'd like to have classes. That's what we'd like.
Liz: It's a culture, and it's growing. I think that's the thing.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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