Unfiltered Coffee: Come For The Coffee, Stay For The Creativity
by James Coulter
A fern growing out of a saxophone. A deer head wearing a feathered crown. A rhino pulling a cart. These are only a few of the curious sites you can find on both floors of Bartow’s new coffee shop and art venue.
“Eclectic” is the most apropos word to describe Unfiltered Coffee.Connect.Create, the newest “hipster” coffee shop/art studio and gallery that opened in Downtown Bartow. Every nook and cranny contains something new to discover. A trinket here. An antique there. An art piece hanging from the wall. It’s a place where you can visit endlessly and still uncover something new.
Most casual visitors will come for coffee. As typical with most “hipster” coffee shops, their cups of Joe are brewed from beans organically grown and ethically sourced from a local craft roastery, Ethos Roasters in Lakeland. As their website states, their coffee is “committed to product excellence and ethical sourcing and their definition of coffee ‘greatness’ goes well beyond taste and freshness – and extends to the story and impact behind each bean, to their scientific approach to roasting.”
And as with any good coffee shop, there’s always a fresh-baked pastry or well-crafted quiche or breakfast sandwich to wash down with their cup of Joe. Most of their menu items are prepared by local chefs and bakers, so you know that both your drink and your food are prepared by local hands.
However, their coffee shop is only a small part of their two-floor location, consisting of equal parts artisan retail boutique, bookstore, pottery barn, photo and art gallery, artist studio, and event venue. Unfiltered Coffee truly is a place where you come for the coffee, stay for the atmosphere, and come again for the company.
“From our house to yours we intend on providing you a unique experience from the moment you walk through our door,” their website states. “Our mission is to offer a space where you can come as you are, be who you are and create from within.”
Geanie Folder is the proud owner of the coffee shop/art studio hybrid. Originally working at a nursing home, she served as a clothing designer on the side. As with many artists, she was searching for a place to sell her craft and to connect with other local artists.
She decided to kill two birds with one stone by starting the Beatnik Exchange from her family’s farm. The vintage market worked well for some time, but Folder wanted to expand her outreach further with a bigger, better venue. That’s when she was inspired to start Unfiltered with her artist friends.
“I typically surrounded myself with artists and we have a hard time selling our merchandise and getting our names out here,” she said. “When my last child left home, I knew we would start down this road [to opening out new place]…[so] we walked through the universe and went through the doors as they opened.”
She and her friends found a quaint two-floor location in Downtown Bartow along Broadway Avenue and near Main Street. After 22 months of hard work and elbow grease, they transformed it into a unique and chic business that proved to be an amalgamation of every creative art from under the sun, from furniture painting and sewing, to yoga and belly dancing.
Even in the middle of a pandemic, the sheer fact that they not only succeeded in creating their space, but drawing in people to visit it proves how much support they received from their local community.
“Bartow has always met our expectations and beyond,” Folder said. “I could have never ever opened in the middle of a pandemic and been more supportive of our community in Bartow.”
Linda Cassels-Hoffmann, who runs her art boutique Castles In The Air, is one of the many in-house artists who use Unfiltered Coffee to create and sell their art, as well as to host art classes. As a painter for 40 years, she uses her expertise to not only assist the new shop, but she also used it to help decorate the venue.
“We look at a lot of pics and put things together,” she said. “We have a mind that never stops. We don’t sleep. We wake up tired because we dream all night.”
She joined Folder when they first encountered the space that would become Unfiltered. Even as they stepped inside, they knew what they wanted to transform it into, and through their hard work, made it what it is today. Even amidst a pandemic, they were surprised by the progress they made during that time.
“It is a happy place,” she said, explaining how they want people “to see something they haven’t seen every day. This is a wonderful place that is ever-changing, something different here every day.”
Cassie Bock, the proprietor of Silver StoneWorks, is another artist in-house. True to her business’ name, she creates jewelry,mostly from sterling silver. She has been beading jewelry ever since she could remember, and silver-smithing for the past eight years.
As with most of the artists who create in the venue, they receive inspiration for the smallest of places, from flowers to leaves. Every little trinket, every small detail, hidden in the shop is another point of inspiration waiting to manifest itself into the latest creation.
“This is a very inspirational place,” she said. “It is where I get my inspiration myself…I love being with all my friends and being able to be creative. I sell jewelry and people doing classes….[I love] the serenity you feel when you come in here. It is a place to stay and hang out.”
Unfiltered Coffee.Connect.Create is located at 160 S Broadway Ave, Bartow, FL 33830. For more information, call 813-481-1234, or visit their website at: https://www.unfilteredbartow.com