Spooky season fuels these Central Florida businesses | Crain's Tampa Bay

Spooky season fuels these Central Florida businesses

  • Coffee Shop of Horrors in Monteverde is opening its second retail store in Clermont in November. | Photo courtesy of Coffee Shop of Horrors

  • Underground Vampire Bar runs through October at DRIP on International Drive. | Photo courtesy of DRIP

Coffee Shop of Horrors in Lake County began as a mail-order coffee business in Georgia before building an ardent following over the years through pop-up appearances at conventions and farmers markets.

Now, after opening its first retail establishment in tiny Monteverde last year, Coffee Shop of Horrors is opening its second store in Clermont next month.

Its scary movie branding made the company popular among horror/cult fans who attend huge conventions such as Atlanta’s popular DragonCon.

Boutique food/beverage companies like Coffee Shop of Horrors don’t typically get the chance to appear at such conventions, due to ongoing venue contracts with hospitality suppliers. But the shows made exceptions for Coffee Shop of Horrors because of its popularity with attendees.

That’s where owner Roxana Stan and partner Nick Sindicich first discovered the brand of “frighteningly good coffee,” which is organically grown and roasted in North Carolina.

“After a night of partying during the show, people would flock to the booth” for caffeine hits from an assortment of blends with names like Reanimator, Burial Grounds, My Little Cuban Friend and Mornings are Evil, according to Stan, who ran the mail-order coffee business out of her home for years until she ran out of space.

“When the original owner decided to shut it down in 2007, we offered to take over since the concept was too cool to let die,” said Stan.

In 2011, the couple moved to Monteverde and opened the retail establishment in 2016. Today, the shop features 48 blends, plus teas, ice cream and hot sauce, all served in a quaint space dominated by movie posters and board games.

The new, 3,000-square-foot Clermont store on Montrose Street will feature a replica of the man-eating plant from the “Little Shop of Horrors” theatrical production. The business is also relocating its original store to a new venue in downtown Monteverde.

“We’ll be able to do a lot more and offer a lot more with full kitchens and more dining space,” Stan said.

Yet even as the company prepares to open its Clermont location, Coffee Shop of Horrors still relies on elements of its early pop-up years. “We still do farmers markets and conventions, and we have reps who do some of that for us,” Stan said.

Cult following builds a business

Another local establishment with a flair for the dramatic – Orlando’s DRIP performance space on International Drive – also started out booking pop-up gigs before establishing a permanent home.

Accessible via a nondescript side entrance behind Denny’s and Senor Frogs, DRIP is both an entertainment venue and a performance art company. It combines physical, musical and visual arts to create immersive experiences for audience members, who become participants themselves.

The DRIP concept was born in 2006, when founder and choreographer Jessica Mariko was invited to create a dance piece for the opening gala of the Orlando International Fringe Festival.

Soon her group was booking gigs at private and corporate events around Central Florida, where shows incorporated a range of mediums, including dance, live music, sand, smoke and even the culinary arts. 

“I always dreamed of creating a business model behind the art that could sustain artists,” Mariko said. She began investigating other creative companies and learned that those that flourished tended to produce ongoing shows located in or near tourist destinations.

I-Drive didn’t have anything like DRIP at that time, and she began exploring locations, many of which were out of her financial reach.

When DRIP’s empty, windowless space became available, it fit the bill perfectly – and Mariko made the leap. Since opening in 2012, DRIP’s regular performances have attracted local, national and international audiences. DRIP premiered a new, original performance at the recent Creative City Project’s Immerse 2017 downtown.

“For us, the most beneficial part of having a permanent space is all the time we save not having to set everything up and cleaning up,” Mariko said. “Plus, it’s nice to be able to add onto your concept every day instead of feeling like you are starting from scratch each time you do something.”

For those patrons who love campy horror festivities during Halloween, DRIP is hosting its third annual Underground Vampire Bar experience, held Fridays and Saturdays in October.

This year’s show – which Mariko describes as “half-improvised” each night – features a 10-foot “blood shower,” cocktails organized by blood type and a vampire pole dancing performance. During the rest of the week, DRIP caters to the creative community by hosting local art nights and other performances.

October 17, 2017 - 7:47am