Tara Wright never dreamed she would own a coffee shop when she began working as a barista at Amore Coffee. She started making drinks as a way to supplement her income and fell in love with the community. The customers, staff and suppliers genuinely liked each other and wanted to be together. She found a clutch of like-minded individuals brought together by their love of community, and coffee.
Located on Saint Paul’s west side, Amore Coffee has been an anchor in its neighborhood since 2010. It is a gathering place for its community as a venue for local musicians, a meeting place for book clubs and Bible studies, and a place to network. They’ve even had a someone teach ukulele lessons. The conference room has seen a wide variety of uses and gatherings.
“The hardest part about the pandemic is that we haven’t been able to gather as a community,” says Tara. “We’ve found a way to serve the products to our customers, but the heart of our business is as a place to gather.” She hopes to see the community safely returning soon.
Tara credits Amore Coffee founder (and former MetroIBA Board Member) Nancy Breymeier for creating a great opportunity. Nancy had launched Amore on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul and then moved it to its current location on Smith Avenue. Tara joined Amore and started to learn the business. Something she says is not for the faint of heart! Nancy began to think about passing the torch and suggested that Tara would be a likely candidate. Tara was surprised. She never wanted to own her own business, but this just seemed meant to be. Working with Nancy and MetroIBA member BankCherokee, they were able to work out a financial arrangement that allowed Tara to buy it in 2018. Tara gives MetroIBA a credit as a resource that helped her transition into ownership and continues to be a resource as she as grown. Having other small business owners she can talk to, has been critical.
A core element to Amore’s success has been its staff. Tara gives them much credit for creating a welcoming environment where people want to gather. As a result, its customer base is as diverse as the neighborhood where it is located. People come from all walks of life and all income groups. Her philosophy has been to invest in her team because they are the drivers of the business. If the team is satisfied, they will take care of the customers and help the community thrive.
Recently Amore refreshed its logo and its brand. The new logo captures the essence of the Buy Local movement as it encourages customers to support their local, neighborhood coffee shop, “Neighborhood coffee shops are vital to the health of a community,“ Tara explains. “They are the heart where you can connect with neighbors, share ideas for the community, and learn what is important to others. They are the original social network!” So if you can’t make it to Amore, go to the independent coffee shop nearest you. Enjoy a cup and make some new friends!