ST. PETERSBURG — JoEllen Schilke takes pride in giving people a place to socialize for a while in a homey atmosphere.
At her Globe Coffee Lounge on First Avenue N, customers meander in and out. They sit and play with board games or knickknacks. Some even order a hot beverage or a sandwich wrap.
She wouldn't have it any other way. At the end of March, the shop will celebrate its 10th anniversary. During that time, Schilke has learned a lot: how to partner with businesses to address nitpicky issues, how to maintain a comfortable ambience, and how to keep customers coming even when money's tight.
"I work hard to keep prices low. If the prices are low they'll keep coming even in a recession," she said, taking a break from serving customers late last Thursday evening. "You can get something nice to eat, drink, and leave a tip for under $10. People need that," she said.
Her shop is artsy, filled with comfortable couches and chairs where people can sit and debate politics, host book club meetings, and try to solve the world's problems. "What I wanted to do is be integrated into the community. The idea is just to be a living breathing thing," she added.
Schilke, 47, was attracted to the eccentric, creative atmosphere in downtown St. Petersburg. She can see some of the few positive sides in the economic downturn. "I didn't like the hyper development, hyper construction that was going on downtown," she said. "I like the smaller, community-based mom and pop shop feel. Things were becoming too corporate."
She partnered with several other businesses nearby to address nuisance issues like unruly customers or help with starting ideas. She is close with the owners of Lucky Star, a salon; Daddy Kool, a record store; and Star Booty, another boutique and salon. "We've always done a lot of flier projects together, and distribution. It's been a big help," said Mimi Reilly, who owns Star Booty.
Schilke keeps things casual at the Globe. Some people might eat a formal sit-down dinner while others take their coffee and a book. Other people might lounge with a beer and black bean nachos.
Nasser Haddad, 23, who moved to St. Petersburg recently, said he has attempted to sample every item on the menu. "It's very homey," he said. "It's like someone invited you over into their house or kitchen. It's just very welcoming," he said.
Revenues haven't been sky high of late, but they're enough to get by. "I'm pretty good at belt tightening," Schilke said. Most food is made from scratch to conserve costs.
After a decade in business, she thinks she has accomplished her original goal. "I put together somewhere people meet each other and get together."
Austin Bogues can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8872.