A caffeinated hub for community in Cleveland is spilling across county lines to launch an additional outpost in Gainesville.
The 1,400-square-foot retail suite and adjoining patio should provide ample space to cultivate the same sense of hospitality and belonging housed by their flagship location, owners Stephen and Marilyn Martin said.
Nine-year emigrants from south Florida, the couple said they’d talked at length about having a good coffee shop in their new home town and hoped someone had the gumption to make it happen.
“Someone,” as fate would have it, turned out to be the two of them.
With the height of the COVID-19 pandemic halting much of their work as video producers, the Martins were forced to consider an alternative business venture. Around that time, the downtown building with the “European coffeehouse kind of vibe” they’d been eyeing became available.
“I loved coffee, but I didn’t know much about the coffee business,” Stephen said. “We had a few thousand dollars in the bank and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll be able to start this.’ Of course, when we opened we had no money left, but I didn’t tell (Marilyn) that until months later. We used everything we had. We were all in. We risked everything.”
According to Stephen, a line started forming two hours before Farmhouse was slated to open its doors for the first time, and the demand hasn’t died down since. He reasons it’s not just the coffee — which is roasted by Because Coffee in Dawsonville — but something deeper.
“One of the things I always say is, ‘The money follows the mission.’ Our mission for our coffee shop is that people would be seen, heard and valued,” Stephen said. “We just thought, ‘We’re going to set up shop and we want people to feel like if they haven’t come to our shop that day, something’s missing in their life.’ We wanted to impact the community, we wanted to impact people — that was really the mission.”
The Farmhouse atmosphere is modeled after the Martins’ own home, they said; guests are offered the same level of hospitality as if they were in their living room or gathered around the kitchen counter.
“When people walk in, they’re welcomed; they matter,” Marilyn said. “They’re not just a number or money rolling in. These are people with lives and stories. People that walk in, they’ve lost a husband or their son’s in the hospital — it’s like, do you understand, when you’re interacting with somebody, the importance of treating them right and showing them love? Sometimes people need people to talk to that are outside of their world, just a fresh voice or somebody that can encourage you. And then they leave and they feel better, and all they did was share.”
“I think one of the reasons why we’re such a breath of fresh air is people just wanted to feel normal again (post-pandemic),” Stephen added.
Other than polling Farmhouse’s Instagram followers on where they’d like to see a potential second location earlier this year, the Martins said they didn’t have concrete plans for expansion.
Forty-three percent of the votes were cast in Gainesville’s favor, with the remainder divvied between Clarkesville, Cornelia and “Other.” Shortly thereafter, the Martins were approached by some investors wanting to know “what it would take to bring Farmhouse to Gainesville.”
The shop has already garnered a loyal customer base in Gainesville, with some making the trek to White County up to three times a week, Stephen said.
With an established following, a larger space and family ties to the Poultry Capital, the Martins said launching a Farmhouse Coffee in Gainesville makes sense.
“What we have here (in Cleveland) is scalable anywhere we go, because our mission is for everywhere,” Stephen said. “Everybody needs to be seen, heard and valued and treated right. I think when people experience good customer service and people actually act like they care, they’re blown away.”
“The only training we have is, ‘You need to love people,’” Marilyn added. “People walk in here that have real issues and we have to be able to connect with people and love on people. Because it makes a big, big difference. That’s why we opened our doors.”
Farmhouse’s basic menu will be the same across both locations, though the extra space in Gainesville may afford some additional food and drink options.
The Martins said they’re excited to become “the” coffee spot for Solis residents and students studying across the street at Brenau University.
While Diletto Bakery stands less than a quarter-mile away on Bradford Street Southwest, the Martins said they weren’t initially aware they’d be in such close proximity but don’t envision any competition cropping up between them.
“There have been places we have not gone because we know there’s another coffee shop there,” Stephen said. “If I had known (Diletto) was that close, I probably would have reconsidered. … But there’s cities with half as many people as Gainesville that have eight coffee shops. There’s plenty of business to go around. We want to create a space for people who don’t already have a space for coffee and create a connection with them.”
From Stephen’s vantage point, each of Gainesville’s coffee purveyors impact the community in their own way, so “there’s really no competition.”
“Yeah, we’re selling coffee and other people are selling coffee, but our mission is different than their mission is — and as long as they’re fulfilling theirs and we’re fulfilling ours, everybody gets taken care of,” he said. “We can’t serve everybody in Gainesville — it would be impossible. There’s got to be somebody else that serves coffee. You’ve got to have the Dunkin’ and the Diletto and Inman Perk. If we come together and work together, man, what an incredible change we can make.”
Farmhouse Coffee in Cleveland is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Its Gainesville hours will likely be the same, the owners said, though they may extend a bit later on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We’re really looking forward to meeting everyone, serving them good coffee and just loving on them,” Marilyn said.
“We’re terrified but excited at the same time,” Stephen said. “We’re just in a roller coaster and we’re strapped in for the ride.”