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Saving a Local Coffee Shop

Posted By Ester Venouziou, Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Jeff Sprinkman opened his coffee shop a year ago, on Valentines Day.

His dream was, admittedly, a romanticized view of a local coffee shop: a community hub for college students, young professionals, activists. Jeff envisioned local art lining the walls, local musicians jamming in the evenings.  It would be a place where forward-thinking people would meet to brainstorm ways to make the world a better place.

There would be great coffee, fun snacks, affordable prices.

He brought in the students, the artists, the activists. He brought in lattes at under $3. He created his signature drink, the mocha vidacino, a double-espresso with a secret blend, your choice of chocolate or caramel.

Customers loved it all.

"This is a good break from my corporate day," says customer Nate Morton, a geographer whose offices are near Mocha Vida. "I like the organic feel."

• • •

But here is the bottom line: Sales need to just about double for Mocha Vida in St. Petersburg to stay open past March 31.

Jeff, whose background is as a biologist and environmental scientist, has poured everything he has into the business.

It has gotten to the point that he gave up his car (six weeks ago) and gave up electricity at home (five months ago).
He uses flashlight and candles; he takes cold showers.

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Jeff tells us.

• • •

What went wrong?

Jeff admits his expectations might have been too ambitious. He thought he'd be breaking even within a few months, making a profit by the end of his first year. Jeff wonders if he should have gotten investors or partners. He wonders if he took on a project that was too much for one person to do on his own.

Still, Jeff isn't ready to give up.

And he definitely isn't alone. A local organization, Keep Saint Pete Local, teamed up with a local business, Nova 535, and has been helping get the word out, helping bring attention to Mocha Vida. Local news blogs including those by the Old Northeast Patch and I Love the Burg brought more attention to the situation. And here at, we are committed to help in whatever way we can.

Jeff is talking about a "save the coffee shop party," sometime in March. He's planing to get a beer an wine license in the next few weeks, and that hopefully will bring in more revenue.

Mocha Vida is an escape from the outside world, Jeff explains: "The spirit of the independent coffee shop needs to stay alive."

Mocha Vida is at 10468 Roosevelt Blvd. in St. Petersburg. It's tucked inside the Publix shopping plaza on Roosevelt, right off Interstate 275.

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Tags:  jeff sprinkman  keep saint pete local  local coffee shop  moc vida  nova 535  st. petersburg coffee shop 

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