by Taylor Weil
The Orange Spot has been a seven year dream-in-progress for co-owner Julie Simuang, who found solace in coffeehouses during her travels abroad. “I was in the Peace Corps,” explains Simuang, “and I stuck out like a sore thumb." That’s when she found herself going back to the same Thai coffeehouse, which made her feel safe, secure, and welcome. This spot also featured a special orange drink, the Cha Yen, which inspired a catchy nickname and Simuang would think: today “I’m going to my orange spot.” When she returned back to the states with a coffeehouse dream in hand, she knew her priorities: “I need to provide my customers with [their own] orange spot.”
The dream began to pick up pace when Simuang met friend and co-owner Laura Cannon, one of Simuang’s regulars at a coffeehouse she managed in West Ashley (and the City Paper's advertising coordinator). Unaware at first of the connection, Simuang hired Cannon’s husband at the coffee shop and the pair’s budding friendship quickly evolved into one of trust and commitment, which in turn provided solid ground for a business partnership. They admit the venture hasn’t been easy, and they had to start small before they could realize their dream in a permanent location.
If you’re a fan of the sun-soaked farmers markets that litter the Charleston area in the warmer months, you may already be familiar with The Orange Spot. They started offering Cha Yen at the Pick ‘n’ Mix Makers Market this past summer alongside special seasonal drinks like handcrafted rosemary & honey lemonade and an apple pie drink, which customers called “liquid gold.”
Securing funding for the permanent Orange Spot wasn’t easy, but the duo had the support system they needed to conquer every challenge; people along the journey have been “gracious, knowledgeable, and supportive,” and the two are boundlessly thankful for their help.
“It’s by far the hardest thing we’ve done,” says Simuang, but after months of bumps in the road, they’ve started to get excited about the challenges.
But their mission keeps them focused. They have three central pillars they want to build: community, creativity, and relationships.
The Orange Spot women are especially excited about their new espresso machine, which they refer to as “the cadillac of machines.”
Light snacks will be prepared on site, and they are hoping to provide fare from local food trucks as well.
As for pastries, Simuang and Cannon prefer to leave that to the experts. They currently have their eye on two high quality bakeries, with promises to stay local. The Orange Spot will be freezer-free, and the plan is to cultivate the outside space where they can tend to their own ingredients, picked fresh before preparation daily.
They intend for the Orange Spot to be “a cozy place” to sit down, read, or get work done with the company of friends, classmates, co-workers, or just an iPod. The front room will be an open space to seat many individuals, and in a room in back can be reserved for study groups or meetings.
Forming a loyal customer base shouldn't be hard for Simuang and Cannon, as they are friendly, upbeat, and set on creating a space where customers feel “safe and encouraged.” Simuang and Cannon can't wait to help the Park Circle community wake up and start their mornings positively, to pop in for a Cha Yen or handcrafted pick-me-up, as they go through the day.