In a space not much larger than a typical living room, Jet City Espresso patrons chat over late-morning drinks, their voices intermingling with the acoustic music playing over the speakers. Portraits of musicians painted in cool colors complement the relaxed vibe.
Walking into this coffee shop on South Edison Avenue, it's not hard to feel like you are at home. And indeed you are in the Hyde Park home of Owner Jessica Glover.
Glover's journey to Jet City
traveled a circuitous route. She initially moved to Tampa in 1994 and opened her first coffee shop less than two years later, beating Starbucks as the first Seattle-style coffee shop in the Tampa Bay region. But, after five years in Florida, Glover relocated to Colorado, where she opened her own restaurant. Then in 2008, she moved back to Tampa and bought a home in a neighborhood where she could rezone the building as a coffee shop. Today's Jet City was born.
Glover jokes that she attended the "hard knocks'' school of business -- she learned the tricks of the trade mostly through experience, with plenty of trial and error. She attributes her entrepreneurial success to her knowledge of the espresso extracting process, one of the many skills she has worked to develop since her teenage years.
During a recent conversation at Jet City, she wandered back and forth from the shop area to her kitchen, greeting customers and checking on her fresh-baked chocolate mint scones.
"We are always baking. We make 12 dozen scones a week, and we also make gluten-free cakes and brownies,'' says Glover.
A native of Seattle, Glover is no stranger to innovations in the world of coffee. She recalls how baristas in Seattle were constantly experimenting with different drink flavors, and her own realization that by using real ingredients rather than syrup, she could create endless combinations of drinks.
Glover designed her own original drink more than 20 years ago. The Borgia, an orange-infused latte sweetened with honey topped with whipped cream, nutmeg and orange zest, is a favorite among Jet City regulars.
Patrons run the gamut from yogis to mothers to musicians to athletes, according to Glover, "anybody that Googles coffee.'' Many of Glover's customers come in search of an independent shop, weary of their usual strip mall caffeine fix.
Jet City's health-conscious options, including paelo and gluten-free treats and the option to add almond milk to any drink, have attracted a diverse clientele.
A Healthy Business Philosophy
While the focus on health was initially a response to customer demand, Glover believes that she has changed the way many of her customers think about their food.
"I want people to come in and learn a whole new way of eating and drinking,'' says Glover. "I have even changed people's lifestyles in the two years that I have been here.''
Her signature drink is also being made into a soap bar by a local company called Indigo Bee
. Jet City has fostered relationships with other local businesses in the name of health and fitness. Glover recently collaborated with local cycling groups to design cycling and triathlon jerseys for the shop's new team, the Jet City Jockeys.
Regardless of what motivates their visits, Glover welcomes new customers and regulars alike with an enthusiasm most people reserve for old friends.
"I have such a passion and connection to my business, so I really reach out to welcome new people that come in,'' says Glover. "The people that come in every day are my friends. I don't see it as a job, I am entertained every day by their stories and beautiful experiences. I am a people person.''
Glover studied art in college, and her paintings have been in galleries across the country. She knows almost all of her subjects personally, many of whom are fellow musicians. According to Glover, "art is about creating something beautiful that people want to see and that makes them happy.'' This same philosophy applies to her music, and as a result, jam sessions happen in the store on an almost daily basis.
Her personal style "leans toward Celtic, bluegrass and classical,'' she says, and she has done more than dabble in these genres. Outside her business, Glover holds private house concerts with musicians from as far away as Ireland.
Sustainability Ranks High
Jet City Espresso uses organic milk products from Dakin Dairy Farms
in Myakka City (near Sarasota), and all of the cups, lids and sleeves are compostable. For Glover, these practices are a personal as well as business philosophy.
"It's not all about making money, but sustaining ourselves on what we make and give back to the environment rather than creating waste.''
And Glover puts her money where her mouth is. Her house is powered by solar panels installed on her roof, and the family cars run on biodiesel fuel.
Many years of traveling, including a six-week road trip last summer, have taught Glover how to compromise her active lifestyle with business ownership.
"It's a sacrifice, but I love what I do so much and I have learned that you can make the time to travel and keep the music and art going by having good places that are run well by people I can trust.''
Jet City's New Location
One such person is barista Veronica Lee, who Glover considers her "right hand'' at Jet City. Lee is slated to manage the shop's new location, which they are planning to open by the end of the year.
Lee has done some of her own experimenting with some healthy recipes, and even has her own original drink in the works (it involves real pumpkin puree).
Though Lee and Glover are seeking a larger space for their next shop, they want to keep the atmosphere of closeness they find in their current locale. In the close quarters of Glover's home, Lee says that "even the shyest person can walk in and join the conversation. You can't avoid meeting new people here.''
The personality and design of the new shop will be essential to maintain the congenial atmosphere.
It will be larger with a larger seating area, weekly live music, longer hours, and a full restaurant menu with an emphasis on healthy eats. Glover envisions the new location as a destination for bicyclists to meet before or after a group ride.
As both a business owner and a mother of two sons, Glover says she has always been a caretaker.
"I have always welcomed customers with a hug. There's so much negative news in the world -- I would rather focus on the positive. If things are negative, including a customer, turn it into a positive and make them feel better when they leave.''
It's a philosophy that, judging from a typical morning at Jet City, is guaranteed to keep them coming back.
Lucy March, a feature writer living in Tampa, completed her bachelor's degree in History and Asian Studies at Davidson College in North Carolina, and is interested in all things related to local history, fitness and food. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.