Chloe's Cup filling a Tuscaloosa nicheBy Jordan Staggs | 08/30/2011 1:01am
With TCBY, Starbucks and Crimson Cafe near campus, UA is hardly found wanting when it comes to a place to get a nice hot cup o' Joe (or iced, whipped or blended, for that matter). But until May 2010, the downtown Tuscaloosa area was missing that little neighborhood coffee place. Chloe's Cup owner Gail Faulkner has filled that niche with her cozy little spot just to the left of City Hall on University Boulevard, where students and business people alike can relax and recharge with organic coffees and teas and an array of tasty treats. Faulkner shares her experiences owning a small business and her favorite cup of coffee with the Crimson White:
CW: The Crimson White: So how did you get into the food and beverage industry?
GF: My family owned Wright's restaurant in Alberta City, so I grew up around the business. Chloe is my granddaughter. She's three now. So it's Chloe's Cup.
CW: What inspired you to open a coffee shop, as opposed to another restaurant?
GF: Well, I love coffee. I love to drink coffee and I love the atmosphere that comes with it. When you walk into a coffee shop, your troubles melt away. That's how it should be.
CW: Why did you decide to open the cafe in downtown Tuscaloosa?
GF: Rent is so high on the Strip, so downtown worked out better, and I thought we could get the business district as well as the university, which we do. It was a niche that I think we were able to fill.
CW: I noticed some customers with punch cards coming in. What are those for?
GF: We stamp the card every time you get a drink, and every tenth drink is free, so people like to hold onto those. We also do a ten percent discounts for university students, faculty and staff.
CW: Your coffee and tea are all organic, fair trade products. What does that mean exactly?
GF: That's really important to know. It comes from third world countries, and the people who gather and make it get paid for their work, so they are able to build schools and other things. Look up fair trade online – it's great. We sell it by the pound and half pound as well. We're also participating in the Alabama Home Grown Farmer's Market this fall.
CW: So what is your favorite drink here?
GF: The Bama Brulee. It's got Ghirardelli white chocolate syrup, caramel sauce and cream all stirred, iced or hot. It's a crème brulee drink but we renamed it the Bama Brulee. Sometimes we offer it as a special on game days.
CW: What else do you offer, in addition to coffee?
GF: Besides coffee and tea we do sell sandwiches, soup and baked goods. I just wanted everything to be good and homemade, so that's my whole thing. We offer a lot of vegetarian choices, but we also try to make some things the students can get that are "like mama makes," like our banana and strawberry bread.
CW: Was there a particular theme you were trying to accomplish with the decor and the atmosphere in your shop?
GF: Yes, I wanted to have a lot of art displayed. The downtown area has an art night once a month, so we feature artists every first Thursday of the month – so this Thursday – and if they sell anything while it's here I don't charge them for it. Usually it stays up the whole month, and every Tuesday night we have live jazz with The Voodoo Saints. Soon we're going to display some pieces from Arts and Autism. That's kind of what we're all about. We have a little music, a little art and a nice relaxing atmosphere.
CW: You also have little gifts and other things for sale?
GF: We've got all kinds of photography and jewelry, like hemp bracelets and earrings. One time a sculpting class from the university brought some pieces in to sell. We even have hula-hoops a local girl makes. Everything is made by local artists. It's nothing really fancy, just neat little things people can pick up as a gift, and we'll wrap it up for them. We also do gift cards.
CW: What is your favorite part of running Chloe's Cup?
GF: I like to interact with the people who come in. I like to talk to people; I wouldn't be happy in a cubicle somewhere. We have all kinds of people from different backgrounds and cultures come in. Some of them are international students or have traveled all over and they give us their opinions on the coffee in their home countries or coffee they've tried. I love the diversity of our clientele.
CW: What's the hardest part?
GF: Hmm…well, it's still a new business, so you have to work really hard and work a lot of hours. It's really growing, but not quite to the point I can back off a bit. I get up at 5 a.m. to be here at 6, but I don't dread it.
CW: Are you currently reading anything?
GF: I've been too busy to read a whole lot lately, but I love to watch the BBC. I love period films. I do have a few old books in here, like “O'Henry” and “The Iliad”, or it might be “The Odyssey”, and I've got a good collection of magazines, so anyone can come in and grab something to flip through.