FORT PIERCE ― Dan Pennell never wanted to own a coffee shop. It was actually one of his children that recognized the need for a good coffee shop in downtown Fort Pierce, a niche just waiting to be filled by the right people. Mr. Pennell, longtime owner of a software company in downtown Fort Pierce, always had a great appreciation for the old PP Cobb building at the roundabout on Avenue A and Indian River Drive. He had eaten lunch at the general store there many times, even commented several times to colleagues and family that if space ever became available in that building, he’d like to rent it though not 100% certain what he might do with it. The building is owned by Adams Ranch, Inc., and has a long and storied history back to the earliest days of Fort Pierce itself. The building began life as a trading post built by the Hogg family who had immigrated from Scotland. It later became an oyster cannery and, eventually, the general store that occupied that space for many, many years.
The old general store was a great spot for downtown business-folk to drop in for a morning coffee and pastry, or a sandwich at lunchtime. It was small, quaint, and filled to the rafters with nostalgia. Old fashioned candies, vintage sodas, and craft beers from all over the country lined the cramped but tidy shelves. Crepes, croissants, and cheeseburgers were on the menu, and the service was always friendly.
But like so many other places, PP Cobb General Store went out of business during the Covid-19 shutdown, and Fort Pierce lost a true local treasure.
Mr. Pennell was away on a family vacation in Montana when one of his employees contacted him about the vacant space in the Cobb building, and wheels were quickly set in motion to secure the lease for the very coffee shop his son had been pushing for. There was a lot to accomplish in a short period of time. “It’s one thing to say ‘Let’s open a coffee shop’ in the next few months. Quite another to say, ‘Let’s open a coffee shop in the next two weeks”, said Mr. Pennell. But with the combined efforts of loving, supportive, and industrious family and friends, the project was accomplished. Mr. Pennell related some of the dawn to dusk days spent in restoring floors and building fixtures and furniture that would fit the rustic, old west theme he had in mind. When asked about the ranch ambiance, Mr. Pennell explained that, like many little boys, he had always wanted to be a cowboy. “Now I’m all hat and no cow”, he laughed. But his obvious love of the open range is evident in the beautifully handcrafted leather chairs and lovingly planed wood tables.
Old Florida Coffee Company opened its doors to the public on February 11, 2021. Not sure that the coffee shop would be a sustainable proposition, Mr. Pennell states that he was fully prepared to lose money. He wondered about the feasibility of selling 100 cups of freshly roasted coffee a day. And then there were the crepes, their signature pastry item. Would they be able to sell 100 crepes in a week? He and his family have been utterly overwhelmed by the community’s response to the young business. Coffee and crepes are selling in the thousands every week, sometimes faster than the small staff in limited space can keep up with. This is especially true on Saturdays when there have been lines out the door and down the block.
While the space still retains much of its original nostalgia in the old-fashioned candies and wide variety of vintage sodas, there is something special and unique about the Old Florida Coffee Company experience, something that Mr. Pennell describes as “intentional customer service.”
“We want every person who comes into our shop to see our smiles and know how glad we are that they are there. We want each customer to feel important, to feel loved, and to leave happier than they were when they came in.” This is truly a mission of love and service for the whole Pennell family: Dan, his wife Claudina, their children and their spouses, and grandbaby Cora. A devout Christian, Mr. Pennell says that although he may not have initially been all that passionate about coffee, he is absolutely passionate about people. “That’s what makes all the work worthwhile”, he explains.
After many years in business working with other people and companies that shared his values, Mr. Pennell describes how the coffee shop has been personally such an eye-opening experience, one that he feels challenges him to be more open, more aware, and more appreciative of the people he meets each day, people who come from all different walks of life. Every customer is treated like a valued friend at every visit, and Mr. Pennell always tries to greet the regulars by name and ask about their spouses and kids. This is no doubt one of the factors contributing to the shop’s ever-growing popularity.
Friendly faces, warm greetings, and Grade A customer service along with ethically sourced coffee freshly roasted and meticulously ground daily on the premises, fresh crepes made from traditional family recipes with historic local names like Cracker Trail and Cantown, all blend harmoniously to create the perfect recipe for success, one that we hope the Old Florida Coffee Company will enjoy in our community for many years to come.
For more information about the coffee shop, follow them on Facebook or visit them at 100 Avenue A, Fort Pierce.