TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The owner of a coffee shop in Tampa is looking to not just caffeinate customers, but give back to the community as well, through the holidays and beyond.
“Lady and the Mug” has been open at 510 West Grand Central Avenue for around seven months.
Owner Aimee Tarte, a former middle teacher, started her new venture in 2017 after she became sick with an auto-immune illness. After feeling like she lost her way, she said she prayed and felt God wanted her to open a coffee shop.
“And I told everyone and they were like, ‘you’re insane. Why would you do that?’ They’re like, ‘you have no business experience. Do you even like coffee?’ And I said, ‘sometimes!’ But I knew it was something that I could do good through,” she said.
Tarte attended “coffee school” in Portland, Oregon and talked to as many baristas and coffee shop owners as she could before securing a small business association loan in Coral Springs.
The Lady and the Mug concept came to Tampa at the same time as Tom Brady.
“So I’m a huge Patriots fan and when Tom Brady [signed] here, I was like, ‘I think that’s a sign from God.’ And I knew not one person here. I had no friends, no family, no ties to Tampa,” Tarte said. “And everyone said, ‘you’re really moving to Tampa because Tom Brady [signed] there?’ And I go, ‘don’t get it wrong, I’m still a Pats fan.’ But it was a sign.”
Tarte, however, is more known in both locations for giving back, rather than the Instagram-worthy coffees and lattes served up at Lady and the Mug.
She has monthly meetings with her employees to ask if there is anything they see in the community they can help with or needs to be worked on, or issues her “coffee superheroes” are passionate about.
Tarte initially tells her employees that if the job becomes just about a paycheck, Lady and the Mug isn’t the place for them.
Tarte and her crews have given back in the form of raising $9,600 to take 22 veterans on an Honor Flight to taking meals and supplies to those in need throughout both communities and “literally anything out of the box.”
Their big event is called “Mugs-Giving,” which was held for the first time at the Tampa location this year.
“It’s a free feast and anybody can come, it’s not just for homeless people, we have single moms come, we have people that might live at home or elderly who don’t have family. Literally, we just put it out there on social media and we just contact a bunch of different organizations and let them know what we’re doing,” Tarte explained. “We buy food and we just feed them and we play games and we hang out and we just become a family and create memories.”
Tarte’s next step is to give back to those without homes in Tampa for Christmas. Lady and the Mug’s holiday event will take place on Dec. 21.
She and volunteers will take food, games, fun and even potentially live music to a park near the location to hang out and brighten the days of the homeless.
“We want to make them feel like a human. It’s really easy to go bring them food and then drive away,” Tarte said. “We want to give them an experience and let them know that they are loved and people care about them.”
Tarte and her volunteers don’t ask for donations, they want their aide to be about experience and impact.
At the end of the day, Tarte said she likes to help the “underdogs.”
“I just like to help people, and I don’t see it as they need help, I see it more as ‘what can I use my life for that makes it worth something?’ At the end of the day, I don’t want to say ‘we made so much profit!’ and I checked my profit and loss statements daily. I literally don’t even have one. I am the worst and best business owner because I don’t care about our money at all,” she said.
For the Dec. 21 event, Tarte and volunteers are meeting at the Tampa Lady and the Mug location before heading to the park, which Tarte said is off Nebraska Avenue. All volunteers are welcome, as well as donations of supplies for those without homes from local businesses.