The business of coffee relies on the shared passion of coffee people all over the world, and this section is dedicated to introducing the members of our diverse, dynamic supply chain. Here we ask a few fun questions of our partners at origin, our employees, and our customers; and we share their answers with you so that you can get to know them like we do—in their own words.
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City Lights Coffee, Charleston, SCNamed after the famous bookstore on the West Coast, City Lights coffee is a small shop located in the heart of downtown of Charleston, SC. The shop opened in November of 2006 and has been going strong since. With a feel reminiscent of the popular television show Cheers, it only takes one visit for the wonderful staff at City Lights to always know your name. First-timers should not hesitate to jump into conversation—their opinion may well be asked regardless!
In addition to excellent coffee, regulars and new-comers alike enjoy City Lights’ scratch-made cakes and sandwiches from a local bakery.
Proprietor Sean McCrossin settled in Charleston after his wife Hunter took a teaching position at the College of Charleston. Moving from Chapel Hill, NC—very near Counter Culture Coffee’s HQ in Durham!—where he owned and operated the highly regarded local record shop CD Alley, McCrossin sought some form of work to keep him busy. He decided that his ideal scenario would be to hang out, listen to music, talk with people, and drink good coffee all day. Voila, City Lights coffee!!
Q: How long have you been open?
The weekend after Thanksgiving 2007 marked one year!
Q: What made you want to open a coffeehouse, what was your inspiration?
I love music, people, and coffee. So, what better? I can hang out all day listen to music, talk with people, and drink coffee all day.
Q: What did you do before operating this business (career before coffee or restaurant?)
Listened to and talked about music.
Q: The overview: what kind of establishment are you?
We are a coffee shop first and foremost, however, we are always looking for new ways to improve our skills and learn more about coffee. We also sell teas, great sandwiches, cakes ... and bananas.
Q: Tell us about your customers: what kind of demographic do you cater most to? Are you a destination location or more of a neighborhood establishment? When are your busiest times and why?
From swingers to lingers. People travel from all around the world to have a cup of coffee with us. Others, from down the street. We are a-rockin’ in the mornings 'til about 11 a.m., then we pound some espresso and rear up again around 2 to 6 p.m. Why, you ask? 'Cause City Lights is a great way to start your day and an even better way to waste your day.
Q: Paint us a visual picture of City Lights.
We are approximately 512 square feet with terra cotta ceramic tile, stained tongue-and-groove beadboard, marble countertops with tin ceiling. The subdued lighting provides a relaxed atmosphere. The paintings and the plate-ware offer a zany splash of color. Our cozy place is a small but intimate setting that allows sweet but stimulating banter with our customers.
Q: Tell us about your menu, and most popular/favorite/quirkiest item on it.
Everthing on our menu kicks ass. You can never get enough of a good thing here. Our house blend drip is probably the most popular but we also offer a drink of the week which has proven to be a hit with passersby. The quirkiest? Our Frappen-A! (A name we came to after much deliberation. Other considered names were Frapp-It and Frapp-Them). It's our version of that dreadful coffee.
Q: What’s your coffee setup like? What and how do you serve?
Our Ferrarri (our Astoria) is lightning fast and is on exhibit for the world to see as is the entire drink-making process. Our menu items are mostly traditional but we are happy to try to accommodate. If you have taken years to perfect your taste there's no reason we should snub that. If you're drinking your coffee with us, we will serve it in our colorful plate-ware warmed and filled with the drink of your choice. If you're taking it to go we will put it in a paper cup with a hand stamped City Lights logo sleeve to show the world how "cool" you are.
Q: Do you serve food? What kind, how is it prepared, and how do you how incorporate it into the café menu?
We do serve food. Pre-made sandwiches and pastries. The best damn cakes ever. We also serve wine and a delicious Italian cheese plate.
Q: Have you served any celebrities or people of note?
Yes. However, our local customers are what are most special and are the true rock stars.
Q: Okay, Sean, so you used to own CD Alley in Chapel Hill, NC. How many CDs would you say are in your current catalogue, and do you have a favorite one? How does the music business compare to the coffee business?
I haven't counted them. (I try not to use numbers too often). I have a hard time summing up my favorite records. However, a lot of my favorites were inspired by some of my older favorites. Velvet underground (3rd), The Beatles Revolver, The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, Cluster Sowiesoso, Black Sabbath Black Sabbath, and The Modern Lovers The Modern Lovers, to name just a few. The coffee "busy-ness" is very similar but a little faster pace. At the end of the day, it's about the same. I listen to music all day, talk with customers, and drink lots of coffee.