From EatDrinkJax.com: Urban Bean Coffeehouse Cafe, Talking coffee with owner Pam Hegel.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Marinated Feta
15. What’s an Affogato?
It’s an incredibly rich and delicious drink from our dessert menu. We take a scoop of our gourmet vanilla ice cream from Luke's Ice Cream in Florida and pour a fresh dopio shot of espresso over the top and finish it off with drizzled chocolate. Amazing!
16. Do you have a favorite drink?
Oh… for sure. One of our favorite drinks is our Sparkling Long Black. It’s a carbonated espresso drink that is cold, sweet and soooo refreshing. The carbonation creates this amazing head of sweet foam from the crema of the espresso. It’s so unique and like nothing else you’ve ever tried. We also love the Cubano shot, which is espresso and Turbinado sugar put into the portafilter together before pulling the shot.
17. Do you have a favorite tea?
There are so many, but the Pu-erh Bordeaux is a really amazing and different tea that has quite a sophisticated flavor profile. It’s quite complex and very, very interesting. And my all-time favorite is an African Red Rooibos Honey Cinnamon Latte with almond milk, created from pulled shots of finely ground Red Rooibos and our locally sourced organic creamed cinnamon honey. It’s sweet and creamy and naturally caffeine free!
18. Can you tell us about your background?
We are Pam and DuWayne Hegel. We have been married for 36 years and were high school sweethearts. We have talked about starting a coffeehouse many times over the years but never too seriously. We have always been coffee lovers and thought we knew a lot about coffee until we began this process two years ago! Ha ha. The more we began studying the more we realized what a lifelong pursuit this is. There is so much that goes into making incredibly delicious coffee and we continue to study, learn, and practice every day. It's so exciting! DuWayne is the food expert. He worked for a contract food service company for the last 22 years. He assumed he would retire with that company, but, two years ago he was laid off. We knew right away that this was God giving us the opportunity to do something really important with our lives and we took the leap of faith to start The Urban Bean Coffeehouse Cafe. We are a Christian based company, which simply means that we operate with Christian principles and values - honesty, integrity, respect and love. That is our guiding force for how we treat our employees, our customers and our vendors. We simply love God and love people and do our part to take care of the environment by using a lot of eco-friendly products. We are also passionate about giving and give as much of our resources as possible to our community and it’s varied organizations.
19. Have you owned a food business before?
Yes we have. We were basically kids! We were only 25 years old when we purchased a small business in North Dakota that was like a 'mom and pop' version of Chuck E Cheese. We had 150 video games, pool tables, bumper cars and miniature golf. We had a small snack bar too. We owned that until DuWayne began working in the contract food service industry which is where he really honed his food management skills.
20. Why Orange Park?
We live in Orange Park and we LOVE Orange Park. We really felt that Orange Park needed a craft quality coffeehouse and a place for people to gather together and hang out. We really built The Urban Bean to be the place that we are looking for personally. We love to go out and have coffee and hang out with friends but there is not a coffeehouse very close by. We looked at many locations in the Orange Park and Fleming Island area and once we stopped and got out of our car at this location we realized right away what a great opportunity this was. We are really in the heart of Orange Park with Town Hall across the street. It's where the town does business - the Library, Police Department and Fire Department are all right here. It’s where the community comes together for different events. There are fall festivals, farmer's markets and art in the park activities going on across the street all the time. We also chose this location because there are not many restaurants on this stretch of Park Ave/Hwy 17 so we felt that this area really needed something. We think the commuters will love to have a great cup of coffee and a bagel on their way to work in the morning.
Maple Bacon cake
21. What appealed to you about the building itself?
Well, the building itself was not the appeal, the location was! The building has been here for a very long time and we knew we would need to really give it a new life for our new business. We racked our brains for a while trying to determine what design we could come up with that would be super unique and appealing using the current roof and building design. We are very proud of the design both inside and out and are absolutely thrilled to see people enjoying themselves so much. It has made all of the hard work we put in so worth it!
22. Can you tell us a little about your journey from start to opening? Why did it take so long to open up?
Gosh... that is a great question! And there are many reasons. Starting from the very beginning it took a while to just get the property lines redrawn. Both our building and the building next to us were owned by the same people and the property lines were not dividing the property evenly. Then we were required to do soil sampling because there may have been a gas station on the property years ago. After we did an initial sample, they required us to do the second phase of sampling. In the end, everything turned out fine but it was a huge expense and took time. After purchasing the building, we began demo-ing. Thank God for all of our friends who helped us in the demolition of both the interior and the exterior. Both were a huge job! We gutted the entire place and took it down to basically four cinder block walls. We ended up having to cut out about 1/4 of the concrete slab and replace that too!
We were held up by permitting for quite some time. And little did we know how much would be required of us simply because the building stood vacant for so long. Once a building is vacant for this period of time the requirements are to have everything up to code. That meant replacing windows, replacing air conditioners, getting energy audits, redoing our sidewalks to make them ADA compliant, and putting two new roofs on! We had to replace all the rotten wood on the existing roof, which we knew going in, but then ended up having to build an entirely new roofing structure on top of that which would be sloped, as flat roofs were no longer being allowed by code. The city of Orange Park was in the middle of writing codes which made it a challenge for us because codes were changing on us and we couldn't always get an answer as to what we were allowed to do. It’s nobody’s fault, it was just bad timing to be in the build-out process. Our front sign was initially approved and we had it designed and then the code changed and we had to come up with a different plan.
Most of our subcontractors were awesome to work with but we had a few whom we had to really push to come back and finish their work. One subcontractor, after ten months of basically begging him to come and finish, we finally had to let go. When we found a new subcontractor to finish his work, we found out the hard way that most of his original work had to be redone. Live and learn! Once we were finally able to hook up all of our kitchen equipment a few weeks before we were going to open we found that none of it worked. We had to repair the walk-in cooler and put a new compressor on the freezer and had to have all of our cooking equipment repaired. We were having major water-pressure issues even though all the plumbing was replaced. After having the backflow preventer and the water meter checked, we finally decided to go ahead and replace the water lines out to the street, assuming that would take care of the problem, but it didn't. We still did not have adequate water pressure. We ended up having to put a pressurized tank in the building and then we finally had enough pressure. I don't think any part of the construction went as planned or easily. We seemed to hit a hurdle at every corner and it seems to be unending. In fact, just the week before we opened we were contacted from the DOT and found out that they too have requirements that we were not aware of. We were originally told that if we did not touch the boulevard or the driveways that we would be fine with the DOT. However, we just found out that we need a permit to allow people to turn into our driveway and we need to change our driveway curbing as well as closing off the existing unused driveway. So, as hard as we tried to complete construction, it seemed more and more just kept getting added to our plate, which made it very difficult to determine an accurate opening date. I know people were wondering what on earth is taking so long?! DuWayne and I, with the help of our kids, have done all of the finish work as well as building all of the vertical gardens and planters outside. We've designed our own menus too. We've created the food and beverage menu and all of the training materials. In a nutshell - between the permits, inspections, construction problems and doing so much of the work ourselves - that's what took so long. We don't feel so bad though as we've talked to other business owners who say they have taken almost as long as we have and haven't had near the construction work that we have had.
Although we never dreamed that the construction would consume us like it did, we enjoyed the hard work and putting so much of our own handiwork into our little place. We are glad we didn't cut corners to get open any sooner as people have really appreciated all of the details that have gone into making The Urban Bean special and we hear over and over from our customers how much they appreciate all of our hard work to bring such a unique gathering place to Orange Park.
23. Is there anything you'd do differently if you were doing it again, that you can share as lessons for others?
Absolutely! Get EVERYTHING in writing. We already knew this as we've learned this lesson many times in the past, and yet we still failed on this point. We basically trust people so it's very difficult when people are 'throwing things in for free' to say "put that in writing please". We had all the big stuff in writing but there were a lot of small details that didn't get written down because they seemed so obvious that it didn’t seem necessary. Those items came back to bite us over and over. Sometimes it was a misunderstanding of what those details were, but most of the time it was details that were forgotten. We weren't really thinking about how far out some of the work would be done from the time we originally talked to the subcontractors. So, many things were not remembered over the course of several months. Even though we had written them down for ourselves we didn't have them written in the contract. Also, we learned that we should have given very clear deadlines for completed work. We found that we were constantly getting put on the back of everyone's list. And by nature, we just are not very aggressive or pushy people, so in hindsight we probably should have gotten tougher earlier on. It didn’t seem urgent months ago, but over the course of this last year the amount of stress and time wasted trying to get people to show up to work ended up costing us dearly.
24. Anything else?
Someday I would love to become part of a city development committee or urban renewal committee to try to encourage an easier process for local business owners, especially for those like us, that have purchased property. If there is anything I could do to help another owner avoid the mistakes and missteps that we’ve had I would love to be able to do that. This is definitely not for the faint of heart! I would love to help bridge the gap between the government process and the business owner. New business, and especially small business, is at the heart of economic stability and growth for a healthy community. If there were a list of all the government agencies that a business owner has to deal with, along with a list of the steps involved, that would be very helpful. It would be very nice if there could be some type of help or incentive to purchase an existing building that has been vacant for a long time. The requirements are so steep and the financial drain is huge! The last thing we want in our city is for buildings to remain vacant, but for an average business owner, purchasing those vacant buildings is more than most can afford to do. Also, making the process quicker would really help ease the financial burden. It would have helped us tremendously to have been open 6 months ago and making money. I'm very thankful that we've been able to withstand the stress and the financial burden of this two year process and we are so excited to have finally opened our doors on March 2, 2015! It’s all been worth it and we are ready to serve the community of Orange Park and the surrounding area some amazing coffee and food. We look forward to building wonderful long-lasting relationships!
Urban Bean - Owners
Sun-Thur: 6am - 10pm
2023 Park Ave
Orange Park, FL 32073
About the writer
[url=[url=www.eatdrinkjax.com]EatDrinkJax.com interviews are conducted by Jacksonville Beach resident Gerry Glynn. When Gerry isn't talking with restauranteurs he is working for a local software company, training for his next road race, and hanging out with his wife and dog.