Hesitantly, a girl opens the white, wooden door of the coffee shop and the space welcomes her in every sense. The intersection of the chattering baristas, strong espresso aroma, soft lull of background music and an intriguing, chestnut stained wooden staircase all tell her to “come on in." Approaching the ordering station, she releases a shaky breath and utters five words that would make some coffee connoisseurs shudder— “I’ve never had coffee before.”

Instead of shuddering, this particular Gainesville barista, Nico Mora, smiles. Mora, 21, grew up in a Dominican household always surrounded by coffee.

“Coffee in the Hispanic culture is not just coffee,” Mora said. “It’s a way of inviting people in and showing hospitality.” 

Julia Collins

Mora decided to make the customer the coffeehouse’s bestseller — the 12-ounce Cuban Espresso with Milk. He even added a tulip design on top. She walked away with the drink in hand and came back a while later when she was done.

“This was one of the best things I’ve had in my life,” the customer said.

Julia Collins

That birth of a coffee lover happened at Pascal’s Coffeehouse, one of Gainesville’s locally-owned shops tucked away behind University Avenue. It’s not the only beloved coffee shop in the small city, though. Over a dozen successful, locally-owned coffee shops are operating all across Gainesville. For a town with a specific target audience of college students and local families, it’s unusual that so many shops are expanding and not too competitive with each other. This is happening because each shop has a niche — and they have each identified their niche and capitalized on it.

Gainesville Coffee Shop Map

Wyatt’s Coffee

Location: 202 SE 2nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Julia Collins

Located in the heart of downtown Gainesville, Wyatt’s Coffee is a trendy, blooming shop. With greenery carefully placed in every corner of the shop, pops of dark blue peeking out of the logo and light wooden tables all around, it’s a Pinterest coffee shop dream. Wyatt’s celebrated their three-year anniversary this spring. Longevity for a local business in Gainesville, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, has proved to be difficult.

“Coffee can be a little intimidating,” Wyatt’s barista Allura Graves, 26, said. “We’re big on being really welcoming and friendly and teaching people about coffee. I think you do better if you’re not excluding people from the coffee culture.”

Julia Collins

Wyatt’s niche is knowing their customer base. They know their audience well, as they post consistently on social media, decorate their shop aesthetically and come up with creative marketing ideas. On their Instagram page, @wyattscoffee, they featured a new name every day in the caption of their posts. If you have that name, you could get a free drink at the shop that day. Marketing tactics like that are what sets Wyatt’s apart.

“We had a really fun day where we were promoting the oat milk we have, and it was a free drink as long as you got oat milk in it,” Graves said. “So we had a line out the door all day; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was crazy but it was really fun and nonstop.”

Maude’s Cafe

Location: 101 SE 2nd Pl, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Julia Collins

Open since 1995, Maude’s Cafe promotes inclusivity and respect. They have a large outdoor patio that many students and locals hang out at to do work, go on dates or grab a bite to eat. Being open for 26 years, Maude’s has expanded to merge a few different business ideas into one. They serve food all day, with numerous vegan and vegetarian options. They host drag shows at night, have specialty drinks and are involved in the community. 

Julia Collins

Coffee Culture

Location: 2020 NW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32609  Hours: Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Another Gainesville shop that’s been open for many years is Coffee Culture. This shop features a drive-through and provides caffeine to an often under-looked stretch of Gainesville. Coffee Culture’s interior space is eclectic, homey and unique. Each item appears to be chosen with care, and that quality translates to their coffee. 

Bay Islands Coffee Company

Location: 3270 SW 35th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32608

Hours: Weekdays 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Though Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts appear to have a hold on the drive-through coffee market in Gainesville, Coffee Culture and Bay Islands Coffee Company aim to prove that wrong. On Archer Road and Butler Plaza, it would appear to the unknowing eye that large chain coffee shops are the only option for a cup. However, every morning there is a line of cars snaked across the plaza parking lot all waiting in the Bay Islands Coffee Company drive-through.

The literal hut (“tiki-style” roof and all) is an unsuspecting, seemingly misplaced structure in the middle of a plaza parking lot. Its underdog qualities also apply to the coffee and their bargain breakfast sandwiches. There’s a reason folks will wait in a fifteen-car line. One of the hidden gems of Gainesville, this spot is a local favorite. 

Pascal’s Coffeehouse

Location: 112 NW 16th St, Gainesville, FL 32603

Hours: Weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Julia Collins

Located in the Christian Study Center, Pascal’s Coffeehouse is one of the largest coffee shops in town. There are two floors of indoor seating as well as tables outside and an upstairs balcony. Despite its size, Pascal’s is always bustling and most of the tables are usually taken up.

Pascal’s niche, aside from seating, is that it's an extension of the Christian Study Center.

“Pascal’s understands what it means to be here for the community and be of service of the community and university,” Mora, the Pascal’s barista from the first anecdote, said. “I think while other shops have missions and goals they’re trying to achieve, ours is a little more upfront because we are housed at the study center.”

Julia Collins

Mora, a senior agricultural education and communication major, has worked at Pascal’s for three years. In his view, to be a successful coffee shop in Gainesville you have to have a clear mission, understand what the student population wants and work with brands who align with your mission.

“One of the roasters that we use is Ceremony Roasters, they’re based out of Maryland, and on their bag, it says the phrase ‘Coffee should be something special,’” Mora said. “And that’s always stuck with me.”

Julia Collins

Karma Cream

Location: 607 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: Weekdays: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekends: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

While other Gainesville coffee shops have their niche in their mission, knowing their audience or being a longtime community favorite, Karma Cream does things a little differently. Their niche is in the name "Karma" and they’re all about being kind to the planet (and your digestive system). The shop is medium-sized compared to others in town. Entering the front door, your eyes are immediately drawn to the large chalkboard above the large vegan pastry display featuring coffee, food and more. Karma Cream is a spot where folks go for vegan ice cream, a light lunch or a sustainable cup of coffee.

Opus at Innovation

Location: 800 SW 2nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Julia Collins

With the largest chain of local coffee shops, Opus is a well-run machine. The company was started by two brothers, Tim and Brett Larson, twenty years ago. Their original few locations are located in the Shands Hospital at UF. They’ve now expanded to non-hospital locations as well; the first one opening in Innovation Square in fall 2019. Opus at Innovation, as it’s dubbed, is a clean, sleek coffee shop that’s always busy.

Opus prides itself on good quality coffee, however, one of the things they do that’s quite unique is specialty lattes and drinks with fun names. There’s everything from “Oh Canada!” to “The Glacier” to “Ozarks at Dark” — and they’re always creating new drinks, too. 

“The owners try to include us in seasonal drink ideas, or logos, or whatever it is,” Sadie Vitkus, 20-year-old Opus barista, said. “I think the collaboration between everyone, and that they really listen to us [is part of what makes Opus successful].”

Opus Airstream

Location: 403 SW 4th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Julia Collins

Opus Airstream serves the community in an unconventional way. It’s the only other non-hospital location the Opus brand has, and it’s not necessarily a coffee “shop.” Located in the 4th Avenue Food Park, Opus Airstream is a literal silver airstream that the Opus baristas work out of. They still serve the specialty drinks Opus is known for and take orders at the window of the airstream. It functions almost like an elevated food truck.

Curia on the Drag

Location: 2029A NW 6th St, Gainesville, FL 32609

Hours: Weekdays: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekends: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Curia on the Drag is a brand similar to Maude’s Cafe in that they have a lot of different things going on for the community. Curia on the Drag has the coffee shop, but it also has a small clothing shop, many Instagram-worthy photo spots, vegan and vegetarian food and sometimes hosts community events. What makes Curia on the Drag unique (its niche) is that it brings some worldly cultures to the Gainesville coffee scene that wouldn’t be as prominent without it. 

Concord Coffee

Location: 1380 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32603

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Julia Collins

After owning the original Concord Coffee in Lakeland, FL for six years, the owner decided to open up a second shop in Gainesville. His buddy runs the Gator Wesley Foundation, a local Gainesville faith-founded organization. They both realized there was a big space in the front of the Gator Wesley building, and that’s how the second Concord Coffee location was born.

“I think it’s almost like a big family environment,” Kate Lambert, 19-year-old Concord Coffee barista and social media manager, said. “We’re starting to have a lot of regulars come in and people feel comfy coming in here and eating their lunch or just having conversations with baristas… you don’t always need to get a drink, you can just come and do your homework.”

Julia Collins

Concord’s location, right across the street from the University of Florida, is ideal for students and teachers to have meetings, grab a coffee and hang out.

“We were only open for a year before the pandemic started,” Lambert, a hospitality and tourism major at UF, said. “So you have to completely adapt and overcome what you just went through because opening up a business is already hard.”

Julia Collins

But even though they were closed for a little while during the beginning stages of the pandemic (like a lot of Gainesville businesses), they’ve persevered.

Julia Collins

CYM Coffee Co.

Location: 5404 NW 8th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32605

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

CYM Coffee Co. caters to a part of Gainesville that doesn’t have many local coffee shops. Their rustic vibe and homey nature make everyone feel welcome, and you’ll often find a higher ratio of locals to students in this shop. The shop has been open since 2012 and continues to serve the local Gainesville community.

Volta Coffee, Tea & Chocolate

Location: 48 SW 2nd St, Gainesville, FL 32601

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Julia Collins

Also located in downtown Gainesville, Volta Coffee, Tea & Chocolate prides itself on two things: taking care of its employees and giving Gainesville the best product it can.

“They’ve been very careful, very protective of their staff,” Chris Berry, Volta barista, said. “Obviously we’re not open inside like a lot of other places are, but the owners are trying to be really careful and take care of us and make sure we’re safe.”

Their other priority is serving up the best coffee they possibly can.

“I think the coolest thing about Volta is that the owner really knows his stuff when it comes to coffee,” Berry said. “He was a Q grader for several years… he was a judge for the world barista competition a lot… he has a lot of knowledge that he passes on to us.”

Brewed To Perfection

All of Gainesville's coffee shops have their own niche that allows them to thrive simultaneously. Though other college towns may have thriving local coffee scenes, Gainesville's is unique and rich in not just the coffee, but the folks that bring it to life.