ST. PETERSBURG — Seattle transplant Stacha Madsen and her daughter Nichole McVicar are giving downtown St. Petersburg a taste of one of America’s top coffee cities — with Florida attitude. Nearly ready to debut on the ground floor of the 490 First building, the Blend will showcase coffee, wine, craft beer and food in a relaxed, upscale setting.
Madsen fell in love with St. Pete after relocating from Seattle more than a year and a half ago. Although she said her heart didn’t belong in Seattle, the city gave her the experience she needed to branch out. A coffeehouse she opened there, a two-sided drive-thru also dubbed the Blend, “kind of just runs itself” now.
“I felt at home the day I moved here. I’ve never felt that before,” she said. “I love the people, the whole vibe. It’s a really different feel than what I’m used to.”
The look and feel of the Blend at 490 First Ave. S will reflect the creative spirit of St. Pete and Madsen’s warm personality. According to Madsen, her Seattle customers have called the Blend “the Nordstrom of coffee” a few times. In St. Pete, she wants to provide that level of service, without the corporate vibe.
And the place won’t pour just any java. The Blend will offer the signature, well, blend it carries in Seattle: a mix of beans from Nicaragua, Brazil and Peru.
“I created my own blend about 13 years ago,” said Madsen, who wasn’t a big coffee person back then. “I didn’t want anything that was like anything else.”
Previously built out as a cafe at 1,800 square feet, the shop is set to feature natural and rustic decor elements, including a mural of its logo built out of wood from local artist Leo Gomez. Gomez helped McVicar and Madsen rebrand the Blend for St. Pete, where they hope to appeal to workers in the building, beachgoers and groups of friends alike.
A patio out front, laid-back live music and all sorts of interior seating — think bar stools along a big window and more loungey areas — are among the other highlights.
Aside from selling its signature blend and a decaf roast by the bag, the shop will make energy drinks with vitamin B-12 and specialty coffee beverages that are a bit new for Tampa Bay.
“There’s so much competition and so much stuff that’s always coming along,” Madsen said of Seattle, “so there’s different things that I get to stay up on or that I’ve already experienced that I get to bring here.”
Local drafts and a list of wines will be introduced within a few months of opening day. In addition, look forward to kombucha on tap and a cooler stocked with boutique takeaway sippers from area purveyors.
Madsen and McVicar will use a Merrychef oven to pull off bites like flatbreads and toasts with playful toppings. Similar to the drinks, they’re trying to partner with local companies on the food. The duo will serve pastries, such as the miniature cupcakes of Swah-rey, plus the St. Pete dessert bar’s new line of grab-and-go grub like quinoa salad and vegan options. Another bakeshop in town, Bella’s, will supply a rotating assortment of bagels and spreads.
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“I want to have a few different sweets, but really nice, high-end-type sweets like Katie’s Cookies, and just keep it fun,” Madsen said.
Downtown won’t be their only site, either. The mom-and-daughter team are opening a 2,500-square-foot Blend at 1211 Fourth St. N as well. This larger location in the Historic Old Northeast neighborhood will mirror its sibling’s menu and emphasis on customer service.
“I think the consistency with our menu is going to be a big deal. We’ll have different things at each location based off what works in the area. But the vibe overall is going to feel very much the same,” Madsen said. “I don’t want each store to look the same — I want them to feel the same.”
The Blend will open at 490 First in early December, operating 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily to start. The shop’s Old Northeast premiere is planned for January or February.