Three Layers Expands with Wine Bar and Zen Gardens

July 8, 2009 96 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Three Layers is becoming the Little Cafe That Could. What started as a single room coffeehouse on the East Side of the Historic Springfield District is beginning to blossom into a much larger operation with more diverse products, later hours, and a full entertainment schedule. And it's getting remarkably busier. Check out what has become the signature restaurant of the Springfield Neighborhood.

When Three Layers opened less than a year ago, its position deep in the heart of the Springfield district away from any of the main roads made many wonder what its long term chances were.

A simple coffeehouse, offering only desserts and coffee.  Charming enough of an idea.

Pre opening photo of Three Layers

The owners, Jeff Wright and Shawn Mcguire kept an apartment in the building as well as a budding real estate venture owned by Mcguire.  The couple are life partners as well as business partners, recently married in California.  Their marriage certificate hung on the bulleting board for a while, but the nod to gay equality has been replaced by a picture of the two with Governor Crist.

The establishment opened to an enthusiastic reception---  Springfield is not only one of the most underserved neighborhoods in the southeast but it is also one of the most passionate--- Three Layers fit the hopes and expectations of the residents to a T, and it was a love affair from the first.

The space itself was charming.  In fact, we covered the opening (and pre opening...and the pre - pre opening....and everything leading up to it from the moment it was announced.) and were delighted to see how comfortable and textured the environment was.

The building had originally been worked on by another Springfield entreprenuer, Christie Frazier--the owner of The Pearl, and her trademark detailed elements of design are still evident in the bar and bathrooms, but these details are merely part of the decor ethos of the coffeeshop.  Asian Marionettes, tasteful mahogany cubby dividers and contemporary furnishings mix with Shaker inspired tables and chairs.

Despite the narrow focus on dessert and coffee, the business prospered.

Perhaps partially because of the neighborhood's dogged and affectionate support, but definitely because of the luscious high quality nature of Jeff's baking.

some of the desserts available at the cafe

Ungodly, sumptuous desserts, piled high and nicely balanced in flavor and consistency.  Most dessert counters make the mistake of creating a selection that leaves no room for dishes that arent oversweet to the extreme.  Wright offered both light and classic recipes to appeal to all tastes.

They quickly discovered a demand for more filling food, and light lunches appeared on the menu.

Springfield has a fantastic niche for entertainment that isn't in a bar or nightclub setting.  Jeff and Shawn began programming to fill that niche.  Laid back ambient deejay, Catharsis started spinning regularly.  Acoustic musical sets by the likes of the brilliant Lauren Fincham, and blues guitarist Al Poindexter and the legendary Goliath Flores (in a typically eccentric sunday afternoon performance schedule, Flores is presenting some of his jawdropping experimental vocalization and performance compositions).  Art receptions and community meetings began to crowd the one room space.

Jacksonville's historic district has a commanding share of the city's colorful, eccentric set.  They tend to be more rugged than San Marconians but more professionally employed than the Five Points/Riversiders.  They mix with the realtors, home improvers and LOLAS (little old ladies at SPAR) with ease and comfort.   Three Layers is their home.

The free WiFi attracted the telecommuting workers and created a regular crowd of chatty bright surprising culturati.  This means it became one of the main centers of gossip in the County.  All it needs to claim the crown is a bridge table in the back and possible a barber chair.

Jeff and Shawn decided it was time to expand.  They moved out of their own apartment in the building, brought in contractors and began to expand.

The result was three more rooms with separate themes and uses.  (one of them seems fairly promising as a Bridge Table room)

Three Layers opened up a Wine Bar called The Cellar.  The space features a pretty cosmopolitan ambiance, lots of art and a respectable selection of wines offered both by the glass and bottle.  There is also an line of bottled beer and Bold City Brewery options on Draft.

The Cellar Wine Bar at Three Layers

The Bar is a custom built embedded cement creation in keeping with the eclectic design ethos of Three Layers

The bar is a great cement creation, made in house with articulated details and found objects embedded into the surface.

The bartenders are of the young muscular and engaging variety.

There is a Happy Hour from 4-7 tuesday through Friday.   2 Dollar Drafts (A selection of Bold City Brewery Beers on Draft)  and Three Dollar House Wines.

Adjoining the space is the "Zen Garden", an outdoor seating courtyard.  Ivy crawls up the brick walls and there are stone gardens as well as tables and seating to accomodate thirty or so.  It is a smoking area, with ashtrays provided and lush greenery.  A very intimate cool little space, one could easily spend an evening in the pursuit of diversion in the garden.

Adjoining that is the private dining room reserved for parties, meetings or dinners

Recently at lunch, all tables inside the front room were filled and the place got so busy that every table in the entire building was taken, including the private dining room, The Cellar, and the actual tables of the Zen Garden.

The Lunch fare is elegant and simple, based out of the Deli Case.

There is an assortment of green salads, and a choice of three sandwich style platters.

The Chicken Salad is nice and light, made with fresh grapes.  The Tuna salad is flavored with celery and a dash of spice, and these salads are served in a bowl with bread to the side.

The restaurant also offers baked goods, a tangy Hummous, and bagels.

Regularly Scheduled Art Shows decorate the walls of the walls.  At the right is a work by Overstreet Ducasse.

The entertainment schedule is great as it stands, but will doubtlessly be expanding to fit the new spaces, and you can sign up for the email updates to the schedule.  The website (  also lists upcoming events at this url:

Three Layers is a laid back affordable, incredibly fun little place to visit and hang out.

It is also a great example of a small business succeeding on the basis of quality and community support, we can definitely recommend the restaurant!

Let us know about your own experiences when you visit.

Written by
Stephen Dare.