Decorated in a crazy-quilt combination of antiques, knick-knacks, well-worn, comfy furniture and abstract artworks by local painters and photographers, Black Crow Coffee is the very definition of the universal descriptive “funky chic.” For it is both funky, and chic.
“I’ve heard that,” says Black Crow manager and co-owner Deana Hawk, an admitted “antique/vintage nerd” who personally chose (or made) everything in every room. “I’ve also heard ‘it looks like my grandma’s house.’” She takes that comment as a compliment. “Everything my grandma did was cool.”
Hawk and her longtime partner Greg Bauman opened the first Black Crow location, in St. Pete’s Old Northeast neighborhood, in 2016. Two months ago, they launched a second location, in the Grand Central District.
In both cases, she knew the sort of atmosphere she wanted. “I didn’t think so much about what other shops were out there,” Hawk explains. “I thought about ‘What makes a shop comfortable?’
“I had just previously done so much traveling, and went into so many coffee shops. I mean, I’m not a coffee snob – I don’t ever want to be – but I’ve drank enough coffee in my life that I would like to be in a place that makes me want to stay, not leave. I don’t want to be in a coffee shop that designs their furniture so that you only sit there for 20 minutes, because they don’t want you to take up space.”
Bauman, whose Indian Shores Coffee had already been in business for a decade, was well-versed in the ways of obtaining the right beans, grinding and roasting them.
The first Black Crow location bowed, Hawk believes, just before St. Pete became a bastion of cool, independent coffee shops. “That type of logistic thinking was just not our way,” she smiles. “We opened it up because we live three blocks away, and there was a totally cool corner that was historic.
“I don’t know if it was ignorant bliss … It wasn’t something that we spent a lot of time thinking about. We saw it and said ‘That would make a great coffee shop.’”
That was then, this is now. Last October, Black Crow became the first coffee shop in Florida to be certified “zero waste” because of its composting and sustainability policies.
Community and responsibility are both important to Deana Hawk, a native of Washington State who’s lived in the bay area since 1989. Most of the artists whose impressive works hang on Black Crow walls are young, with little or no previous exposure; both locations feature live music, poetry and prose readings and other regularly-scheduled community events.
The beans are sourced from Peru, Brazil, Bali, Kenya, Honduras and Costa Rica, and roasted (approximately 600 pounds weekly) by Bauman in a back room of the Grand Central location.
The baked goods are either created in-house or sourced from local bakers. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.
Both Hawk and Bauman have adult children from previous relationships; several of them work at Black Crow.
It’s very much an organic, hands-on, family-owned business. And for Hawk, who spent 20 years as a television hair and makeup artist – including a lengthy stint at HSN here in town – every day brings a new challenge she’s more than ready to take on.
“Working in television, I dealt with a lot of personalities, and I had a lot of expectations on me to perform in that environment,” she says. “Learning to successfully do what I needed to do, in that high-pressure industry of TV and talent, I didn’t have time to think of why something wasn’t going to work out. It had to work out, because they had to be on live television … in 30 minutes.”
Failure, she says, was not an option in the TV world. “I know that has a lot to do with why these two businesses have flourished, because you just do it.”
That includes trusting your instincts when it comes to decorating in “grandma’s house” style. “Everything in Black Crow either came from our house or Brocante Market, or literally driving down the alley and seeing a cool table,” Hawk says.
“If I could give advice to people just starting out, don’t buy cheap stuff. Make it. Design it, put it together. Ask a friend. Ask another independent business to make you something.”