CLEARWATER — Two years ago, Bill Giannakopoulos and his brother, George, thought it was time to take a break from coffee.
The two Canadians owned 47 coffee houses scattered around southern Ontario, Canada, for nearly 20 years. So they sold them.
Six months into their separation from the coffee bean aroma and gourmet sandwiches they featured, the two visited a friend in Clearwater.
"We wanted to go out and get a coffee other than at one of the chains," said Bill Giannakopoulos, 50. "We couldn't find a place. Coming from Canada, there are lots of coffee shops. There were no coffee shops here and it started from that conversation."
So they started their own.
The Giannakopoulos brothers got their hands on the building at 2525 Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The facility has been everything from the Ritz Night Club to a steak house. They gutted the 11,000-square-foot building and split it. Half of it has become home to the Bay Coast Coffee Market.
"I wanted to open something that's exciting with a very comfortable environment," Bill Giannakopoulos said. "I want to be able to tell a customer that you can have a cappuccino, or a roasted bean and a quality machine to brew that bean."
In addition to its bold signature coffee blend, Bay Coast has gourmet sandwiches, salads and 36 types of cakes. Organic and free trade coffee beans are available as well as cappuccino machines, ranging in price from $500 to $5,000. And there are plenty of coffee mugs in a variety of shapes and colors.
The store's lighting is soft and comforting and the sleek arm chairs in earthy colors are inviting.
The market is divided into three seating areas. There's the Internet table with free Wi-Fi. There's a booth section and regular table seating. There will be 20 to 25 employees at the coffee market.
"We want people to come in and look and see what we have to offer," said Nick Christodoulou, a store manager. "We encourage people to walk in and do a once-over, then decide what they want."
Dave Kloyd of Clearwater has been eyeing the coffee market from Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard as he passed by in his car. Last week, he made it inside.
"I like good coffee," Kloyd, 55, said after buying a pound of Colombian organic medium roast. "I like to experiment with it and I'm anxious to see a good place with variety open up and looks like we are going to get one here."
Bill Giannakopoulos said coffee is a "social experience."
"We designed Bay Coast Coffee Market as a meeting and social gathering place for friends," he said. "The ambiance we tried to create is where once you're inside, the world disappears."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or 445-4174.