When you walk through the door of Caryn and Ken Reed’s cozy coffee shop and drive-through at 6118 Gunn Highway, you are immediately greeted with the delicious aroma of fresh brewed coffee, a friendly smile and a warm call of “welcome” from behind the counter.
Sips Specialty Coffee House opened over the summer. The shop was inspired by both the Reeds visiting their youngest son performing in local coffee houses in their hometown of Bay City, Michigan and Ken’s longtime friend opening a coffee shop there.
“He put the bug in Ken’s ear,” Caryn explained. “I remember Ken calling me and saying ‘I know what we can do.’ ”
After job layoffs in 2008, the couple decided to escape the frigid winters of the north for a more palatable Tampa Bay climate in December 2009.
“We just couldn’t let go of the idea of opening a coffeehouse,” Caryn said.
Because the couple’s backgrounds are in customer service, they thought the friendliness of a coffee house would be an ideal fit. They searched Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for the perfect location for over a year and half, finally choosing Citrus Park because it met all of their criteria.
Besides serving affordable hot and iced coffee, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, smoothies, organic hot tea and flavored iced teas, the shop offers limited menu items that include home-made brownies, muffins, and biscotti.
"This area – the people just seem so nice here. I noticed that right off,” Caryn said. “I love the atmosphere (of a coffee house). People coming together and having a good time – by the time they leave, they know each other. Ken and I just really love people.”
Caryn hopes that this will be the place they eventually retire to and long-term, add a couple of other Sips to the Tampa Bay landscape.
“I would love for us to be 80 years old, out here, hobbling around talking with people and working with great people like Kelly behind the counter, taking care of people.”
Barista Kelly Price said that she enjoyed the fast-paced environment of morning commuters and had nothing but kind words for her employers.
"Ken and Caryn are the nicest people you will ever meet. They take care of their employees and are open to suggestions for the coffee house. They value our feedback and opinions," she said.
Caryn is also hoping to add performers to the shop. “Any time we’re open. I consider Sips a community coffee shop. The more it’s used, the better,” she said.
Her overall goal with Sips Specialty Coffee House is make people feel something different from the moment they walk in.
“I’ve had people tell me ‘it’s like going home.’ When I hear that, it makes me very happy. I want people to feel like when they come in here, they can take off this load that they’ve been carrying for a while, recharge themselves. Sometimes it’s amazing what a smile can do for someone’s day," she said.
Regular customer Jessica Kingsborough agreed.
“I love Sips warm, quiet and inviting atmosphere. It’s a great place for me to get some work done or meet a client," Kinsborough said.
When asked to choose her favorite menu item, Caryn did not hesitate.
She responded with a laugh. “Coffee of any kind," she said. "I can’t live without coffee."
Sips Specialty Coffee is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (813) 963-7477 or visit www.sipsspecialtycoffee.com.
For information about performing at Sips, email Caryn at firstname.lastname@example.org.