Most every day a group of young people, as different as their favorite coffees, meet in downtown Pontotoc, and as they come and go, their conversation is as fluid and soothing as the warm smell of roasted beans.
“It’s real chill here,” said barista McKenzie Garrett, taking a break from behind the counter at 7South Coffee House, on Main Street.
Garrett pulled up a chair, under a black and white picture of a young, curly-headed Bob Dylan. The usual customers, sitting on stools salvaged from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, talked of school, and music, and showed each other videos on the free WiFi.
“No stress here,” said Katie Perkins, a senior at North Pontotoc High School. “People pop in for coffee to-go, and end up having an hour-long conversation. It’s that kind of place.”
That’s exactly the atmosphere McKenzie’s mother, Angie Garrett, wanted to create at 7South.
“This is a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of color, age, religion, nationality, or who they love,” said Garrett, who opened last October. Garrett, a Mooreville native, formerly owned Imago Dei boutique in Ecru. She always wanted to run a coffee house, she said, but 7South started as kind of a hybrid store—half boutique, half coffee.
Following some professional advice, Garrett streamlined her business plan, sold the remaining clothing, and focused strictly on coffee.
“I hauled a 15-foot ladder out front, climbed up and wrote the words coffee house on the sign, and that made it clear, to me and everybody,” said Garrett, smiling and laughing. “This is what I really wanted to do. This is fun.”
As in most coffee houses, even the furniture at 7South smells good enough to eat, with that rich, deep, earthy smell of coffee, comingled with a dash of fruitiness from the smoothies and other cold drink selections—big sellers in the sweltering, Mississippi summer. Youngsters often take their goodies to the cool confines of the downstairs WiFi lounge, where they can Tweet, text, type, or just chill. The big screen adds to the fun of birthday party movies and karaoke.
The “playlist” at 7South is divided into whimsical categories, cleverly evoking musical and pop-culture aphorisms. Under “Just Brew It,” are all the usual selections, including lattes, macchiatos, mochas, and other brews with delicious-sounding French and Italian names. In keeping with the laid-back atmosphere, “Don’t Worry, Be Frappe,” lists tantalizing selections like pralines and cream, horchata, and cake batter.
Frappes under “Greatest Hits,” include “Blue on Black,” named for the raw, searing Blues record by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, which has Ghiradelli white chocolate, blueberries, and chocolate chip. Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” lends its name to a Ghiradelli, raspberry, chocolate chip mix. The reggae-inspired, 1978 hit “Roxanne” by The Police is the namesake of a Ghiradelli white, salted caramel, white chocolate whip concoction. Baristas will even put on a red dash-- of grenadine, at customers’ requests.
The house brew at 7South comes from My Brother’s Cup, a Fulton-based business that sells coffee to support missionary activities. That connection, between coffee, service, and building community is at the heart of Garrett’s business philosophy.
“Coffee is a big thing in recovery—like who can make the strongest at meetings,” said a smiling Garrett, who is 12 years sober in recovery from substance abuse, and works as a counselor. Garrett travels a lot, facilitating interventions and case-management, and assisting others in recovery.
“People often see addiction as a moral deficit, but it’s not, it’s a disease,” said Garrett. “In addiction, not only the addict but the family system becomes sick, and my job is to help recovering addicts and families by holding their hand that first year, following through with recommendations and providing an extra layer of accountability.”
Connectivity, relationships, and making people feel welcome, values at the heart of recovery, are also the anchors of Garrett’s business plan. The online community, many of whom Tweet, Facebook and text from the WiFi lounge at 7South, attested to the success of her vision.
“Our favorite are the frappes, love, love, love this place, and staff is amazing!” said Kimberly Malone, via Facebook. “Great environment for young and old to hang out and relax. My daughter, Anna, and I, love this place, and she loves taking her friends. My fave place to relax is the downstairs WiFi lounge.”
Claire Pannell Moore gushed, on Facebook. “Great coffee, great experience,” she said. “Such a cool and versatile place! Exactly what Pontotoc needed. The owner is amazing!”
Malayasia Hill shared more intimate thoughts, through Facebook.
“I’ve come to 7South not feeling good about life, and just the aura of the place brought great smiles,” she said. “Not only is the coffee great, but so are the employees. Greatest staff I’ve met.”
Dahne Carr had rave reviews via Faceook.
“The drink selection makes you want one of everything,” said Carr. “I’ve never had a drink that disappoints. Always a treat when I stop in.”
Kay Davis’s simple compliment on Facebook tied a bow on things.
“Love the family that owns this place,” she said. “Such a special, little coffee shop.”