The bakery named Cake and the coffee shop called Cool Beanz Espresso Bar are literally two shops in one, so much so that patrons often don't realize they've bought their cupcake or quiche from one business and their coffee from another.
Both opened in late March in the storefront on East Main Street that previously housed Sweet Cheeks. It's close to City Hall in the building that also houses the headquarters of Georgia Southern University's City Campus.
"It's a really good spot. We get a lot of walk-through traffic," said Cake owner Shannon Ward.
After giving up her previous job as an ultrasound and x-ray technician several years ago to spend time with her children, Ward started a home-based baking business. Then, when she learned that former Sweet Cheeks owner Jahala Akins was interested in selling her downtown bakery, Ward bought the business and leased the space from the city.
Meanwhile, fresh-roasted, fresh-ground coffee enthusiast David Hoyle planned to return to Statesboro with the intention of starting a coffee shop, as Ward learned from Akins.
So, with Hoyle paying part of the rent, the two businesses opened simultaneously. They share both the front door and the seating area.
Hoyle's relatively compact coffee bar occupies a front corner, while Cake has the main counter with display cases for baked goods. Back rooms, unseen by walk-in customers, include Cake's kitchen, a consultation area for brides ordering wedding cakes and a meeting room that has been used by the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority.
Ward has two full-time and two part-time employees. The full-timers - Ruthie Harvey at the front counter and Kelly Lee, who has been training as a baker - both continued from Sweet Cheeks.
The cakes Ward and Lee make to order also include birthday cakes and cakes for any other occasions. Cupcakes in rich variety, including red velvet, Key lime and the chocolate, pecan and caramel "Gold Digger," are sold over the counter all day.
For breakfast, a busy time for both bakery and coffee shop, Ward cooks personal-size quiches. These include vegetarian quiche with varying combinations of ingredients such as tomato and basil, mushrooms, peppers and onions, or asparagus, as well as savory pies with bacon, ham or sausage. Cinnamon rolls are another frequent breakfast item.
"We kind of do something different every day," Ward said. "We don't really have a set menu."
Meanwhile, Hoyle operates solo, constantly grinding beans, brewing coffee in small batches, talking to people about how he does these things and why. He sounds now like a longtime guru, but his initiation in the coffee consciousness began only two years ago, when he was living in Kansas City and working as a project manager for a telecommunications company. The company sent him to Caracas, Venezuela, where he did some work at the U.S. embassy.
Until then, Hoyle had been a casual coffee drinker, loading his cups with cream and sugar. But when the hotel in Caracas ran out of first milk and then sugar, he was forced to try the native coffee undiluted.
"I could not believe how good it was, and that started me on my journey...," Hoyle said. "I started learning about the beans, the roasting, the freshness."
He went back to Kansas City and visited coffee shops where he talked to the owners, managers and baristas. One mantra they recited was to obtain freshly roasted beans and grind them just before brewing. The coffee beans sold in supermarkets are often several months old, he observes. He seeks to know when beans were roasted and to keep them no more than one month.
At Cool Beanz Hoyle offers coffee from beans roasted by Three Tree Coffee Roasters and Iron Wedge Coffee, both based in Stateboro.
The décor is another locally interconnected aspect of this business duality. Ward keeps fresh flowers from The Flowergirl on the tables and is covering the walls with art for sale by local artists. Currently they're Amelia Schroeder's paintings.
Cool Beanz and Cake are a perfect fit for downtown, thinks Allen Muldrew, executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority.
"For downtown we like to make it a special destination, a unique experience, and you do that with locally owned businesses," Muldrew said. "These are two local folks who have gone into business for themselves, they're people that we know, they're our neighbors and they produce a fantastic product."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.