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Business over coffee

Business over coffee

Remember when a cup of coffee was just a cup of coffee? Over the last two decades, coffee shops have staked their claim as the congregation points, meeting spaces and makeshift work offices of the new millennium.

“I’d say about 80 percent of my work-related meetings happen at Cafe Surfinista,” said Stephanie Testa, owner of Infinity Yoga and Wellness in Cocoa Beach. “Back in the day, meetings used to happen over cocktails. This is a more laid-back, healthy and relaxing environment.”

Visit downtown Melbourne’s Sun Shoppe Café on any given Tuesday morning and you’ll find the place packed with a crowd as diverse as their menu. Middle-aged professionals with their polished shoes and manicured nails discussing quarterly projection reports over Café Americanos. Young entrepreneurs squinting at silver laptops slowly sipping almond milk lattés. Coworkers crowding tiny tables with off site meetings trying not to spill compostable cups of half-caf.

It’s a straight up business buffet, minus the copy machines.

“Whether you’re working or just catching up with old friends, it’s nice to come in and tuck into your own space,” said Kay Broughton, 60, of Cocoa Beach. “You can hide in a corner and do your own thing or carve out a spot for your group and enjoy the ambiance and conversation.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Association, there were more than 22,000 coffee shops nationwide in 2016. That’s five times as many as there were two decades earlier. This coincides with an increasing number of people working remotely during the same period.

The result? Coffee shops have steadily become nouveau destinations for working outside the home or office, having transformed into the “third place” former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz had in mind while building his American coffee house empire.

During a 1983 visit to Italy, Schultz noted the role espresso bars and coffee shops played in local communities. Guests lingered as long as they liked, chatting with neighbors and leisurely reading the newspaper as they enjoyed their espressos. Schultz was taken with the concept, and sought to recreate the environment in the U.S. with Starbucks.

Locally, cozy spots like Melbourne’s Open Mike’s and The 905 Cafe, Sunrise Bread Company in Titusville and Ossorio’s in Cocoa Village have become a veritable home-away-from-home office for Brevard County’s workforce. Free wifi, cold air conditioning, aromas of fresh-brewed awesomeness and copious caffeine make it easy to see their appeal.

However, what’s missing from these cafés can play an even bigger role in attracting repeat customers. There’s no dirty dishes in the sink, gossipy colleagues, dogs barking or babies crying. In short, the distractions that often keep us from being as efficient, focused and productive as we can be are nowhere to be found.

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