Q&A with Co-Owners Alonda McCarty & Chelsea Preston
Interview by Tiffany Evers // Photos by Kelsey Walters
Q: When did you open your doors?
A: June 2019
Q: What exactly is The Florida Local?
A: The Florida Local is a happy little sip and shop artisan market and specialty coffee bar focused on selling Florida-made products and brands. We represent over 50 different artisans from across the state with a lot of them from right here in NSB! We also have a fun “Living Room” area for hanging out or teleworking and enjoying your delicious Trilogy coffee or tea.
Q: What inspired you to work together and create this shop?
A: Although our friendship only goes back about four years, our bond quickly grew over our joint love of quirky Florida history, our “old Florida” adventures, and supporting local makers. When we would get together, our brains would just constantly rattle off ideas of creating this lifestyle brand that brought all of these elements together. We agreed our first step would be to create a space where we could showcase artisans and goods that are handcrafted or designed right here in our state that celebrates the best of being a Florida local.
Q: Every time I come in to visit everything looks so fresh and different. How often do you change out your merchandise?
A: We both share a love for storytelling, which we wanted to play a big role in our customers’ experience at The Florida Local. We change out “the story” for the shop about every two months, which gives us the chance to introduce new artisans and keep things fun for locals that come in and visit us often. Currently the story is “Celebrate Citrus” highlighting one of the best seasons in the Sunshine State – citrus season! The story begins with the window display then carries into the merchandise we select for the main display table, which right now is full of items like screen printed citrus tea towels, fresh orange blossom honey and a cookbook full of nothing but orange recipes – just to name a few! The story is also integrated into the workshops we host as well as what has probably become one of our customers’ favorite things about the shop – our rotating seasonal coffee and tea drinks. Our personal favorite seasonal drink right now has to be the Honeybell latte.
Q: You support so many local artists, how do you choose who to feature?
A: All the goods in the shop are carefully curated by us. Some artisans we found through personal connections or makers markets, others we found through social media or outlets like Etsy. We now have a vendor application on our website that makers can use if they are interested in showcasing their wares at the store. We try to choose new artisans seasonally and base our selection on the story that we are telling in the store at that time.
Q: Not only do you have merchandise, but you also sell a variety of delicious coffees. What sets you apart from other coffee shops in town?
A: When we were creating The Florida Local we wanted to introduce a sip and shop concept to NSB where you could come in and pick up a craft coffee and hang out with us or shop around.
We serve Trilogy Coffee, a small batch roaster out of DeLand and we truly LOVE their coffee! Trilogy coffee is specialty grade and ethically sourced; they roast each batch to a crafted roast profile that brings out incredible flavors of each coffee. We follow Trilogy’s same methodology, weighing all of our ingredients so each cup is consistently crafted on our Slayer espresso machine. We also make all of our flavorings in house using organic ingredients like local honey and our whole milk and fresh cream comes directly from a fourth generation Florida dairy farm, Wainwright Dairy.
We also have a couple of fun givebacks that we do:
1. You can buy a friend (or anyone) a coffee and we’ll hang the sleeve up on our “Giving Tree.” We also add some general ones ourselves like for entrepreneurs, someone having a bad day, or our UC linemen. It makes someone’s day to come in and see they have a free coffee on the Giving Tree.
2. We also like to spontaneously hide The Florida Local magnets around town in a lot of our favorite local spots. We post clues on our Instagram stories for people to go out and find them and they can redeem them for a free cup of coffee! We hope it helps other local businesses as well by getting visitors to come check out their cool places while they are on the hunt for a magnet.
Q: In addition to merch and coffee what other services do you offer your customers?
A: We have workshops that change each month, from make and take workshops, book readings and pop-ups featuring different artisans.
Q: You have really brightened up Julia Street in NSB with a gorgeous mural. When looking for a spot to open the shop, was this a priority to have space for it or did the idea come after finding this store?
A: We had the idea for the artisan market for a couple of years, we just had to find the right space. When we finally found this mid-century gem it was VERY brown and drab and it really needed some livening up for our style. Plus, being off the beaten path, we wanted to create something that would be visually interesting to people driving by as well as creating a destination to come and take a photo in front of the mural. We talked about what we wanted in the mural and to feature some fun things around NSB that we love with a few nods to the past (like the beach sign that used to be at the end of Canal Street and the old cruiser), then Chelsea put her talent to work on doing the design, and we sketched and painted it on the building together.
Q: Right off the main shop you have an incredible working space you have coined The Living Room, since it’s filled with over 50 plants. What exactly do you use this space for?
A: We host our monthly workshops in the space, you can also come in and hang out to enjoy your coffee, telework or have a meeting. We both had businesses out of our houses before we started The Florida Local and we were always looking for a creative relaxing space in NSB with great coffee, fast reliable WiFi, and a space that made you want to stay and create, so that’s how The Living Room was born.
Q: What is the 9-5 Club?
A: The 9-5 Club (named after the queen Dolly herself) is our teleworking club that we offer daily and monthly passes for, which includes high speed WiFi, a secured server and coffee/tea service.
Q: I’ve seen that you host workshops and seminars, how often do you do that and where can our readers find more information about them?
A: We host the workshops about every couple of weeks. We announce them each month on our website, Instagram and Facebook page. Some of the events are free while others, like our make and take workshops, are ticketed.
Q: What does the future hold for you ladies?
A: We are always dreaming and coming up with the next fun thing we want to do with The Florida Local, which is A LOT! We hope to continue to grow The Florida Local into a lifestyle brand featuring more locations across the state with each one being a little different to showcase the local area. Our goal is to launch a podcast this year, which would include all of our antics/road trips/cheese eating (if you follow us on social media, you know we love cheese!) and interviews with our artisans and local farmers to tell the story of Florida. We also hope to someday launch a series of The Florida Local guidebooks. We think that should keep us busy for a while!