Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Coffee Shoppe
Jackie Smith and her employees greet customers with a smile and serve up the best cup of coffee in Selma. They have been since The Coffee Shoppe opened its doors at 308 Broad St. in November 2011.
“You feel great when you can go to a place where people know your name and care about you,” says Smith. And that’s exactly what is served at The Coffee Shoppe: care.
Smith says she is proud of offering Selma an inviting, clean, friendly place to gather and share life. High standards are key to a great experience at the Shoppe – from quality drinks and food to speedy, smiling service. “We really believe the customer is always right,” says Smith. “People choose to come here, and I want to give them an experience to make them come back.”
This attention to detail and commitment to service earned The Coffee Shoppe a Rising Star Award, the customer and community service award given by the Chamber of Commerce, last summer. Smith says they were really proud of this because it shows her that customers valued their hard work.
Smith says that many of these customers are her neighbors and friends. She grew up in Selma and worked as the city clerk for 26 years. After retiring from public work, she decided to try her hand in the business world and got a job with the new Hyundai manufacturer in Montgomery.
But after working for five years in the Human Resources department, Smith was looking for a way to serve Selma again. “I loved my HR work. I got to help so many people find a job,” says Smith. But driving to and from Montgomery every day, plus weekly trips to cities around the Southeast, kept Smith away from her family and home. She says she was tired and ready to find something else.
Then the first little miracle happened. Fred’s Flower Shop, a local landmark, was about to close in the spring of 2011, and Smith and her husband thought that this downtown building should be put to good use. They got Mr. Fred’s blessing and purchased the Broad Street building from Queen of Peace Catholic Church.
They spent the next few months renovating the shop and researching the coffee business. Smith says she had never worked in restaurants and never thought she would be a business owner, but she knew coffee shops. She says she always found a home away from home in a Starbucks or a local café when she was on the road for work and knew that a similar place would do great business in Selma.
The Coffee Shoppe opened to much excitement on a stormy day in November 2011. “People were everywhere, even in the rain. It was breathtaking,” recalls Smith. The first year was a “trial by fire”, but good service and fresh products have kept business booming since that first rainy day. “I will say, Selma loves The Coffee Shoppe,” says Smith with a gracious smile.
This past winter was even a record season for the café. Smith says it’s good to know that the business is thriving past its honeymoon period. This is not too hard to believe, though. Smith and her staff work hard to keep the Shoppe in tip-top shape and stay relevant to their customers’ needs year round.
The Coffee Shoppe always serves pastries, sandwiches, salads, and fruit smoothies in addition to their delicious Queen City Lattes and other hot and cold coffee drinks. Customers can come in, sit down and enjoy their drinks and the free Wi-Fi when they have time or drive-thru when they’re on the run. The Shoppe also offers seasonal specials to keep customers interested and coming back.
For instance, the Shoppe wrapped up “Soup Season” at the end of March. Smith served several varieties of her famous homemade soups in the colder months to rave reviews. They also offered a weekly Saturday breakfast this past winter and served what many people hailed as the “best grits in Selma.” The grits have made a comeback at the Shoppe’s new Summer Sunday Brunch. Smith says that people told her they would like a place to fellowship after church, and she wanted to provide that for them.
Smith and her employees open the doors every day hoping to give good food, friendship, and service to every customer who walks in the door. This open atmosphere makes The Coffee Shoppe a gathering place for all of Selma. You can often find city leaders eating lunch next to a ladies book club here or kids getting a treat after school while people enjoy their favorite drink and read the paper.
Delicious drinks and food bring people to the door of The Coffee Shoppe, but the personal touch keeps them coming back. Customers really appreciate the “get well soon” written on their cup when they feel under the weather or the message or email when their favorite soup is being served. And nothing makes regular customers happier than seeing their usual order waiting on them when they come through the door.
In addition to the loyal business, Selma regulars and out-of-town visitors sometimes give The Coffee Shoppe donations and gifts to say “thanks” and “keep it up.” A grateful Smith says, “God has always placed people in our path to help us overcome obstacles.” Little miracles seem to happen often at the café, but Smith just smiles and says, “I know this place is bigger than me.”
A true sense of community lives at The Coffee Shoppe. Smith started this family business to provide for her hometown. She and her husband wanted to be of service to their community and provide their neighbors with a smile every day, and they thought the best way for them to do this was through coffee. It seems Selma thinks they made a good choice.