By Devin Rodriguez
On any given day there’s no telling who will walk into Black Crow Coffee. The small space, in Old Northeast a few blocks from the Central strip, has limited seating and customers often have to share a more intimate space.
As Deana Hawk, the co-owner of the little coffee shop puts it: When you come to Black Crow, expect to leave with some new friends.
Just last week, Hawk said, a neighborhood regular came in to play the Williams Overture piano in the left room. While he played the piano another customer entered.
They stopped and listened, then after a few minutes grabbed the Martin guitar hanging against the wall and began to play along to the song.
The two strangers jammed together brightening the space for the Monday morning patrons.
“That kind of moment is magical,” Hawk said. “There’s a lot of those kind of exchanges. It’s the interaction between people — when they make friends.”
Black Crow celebrated its’ second year open over the weekend hosting local musicians Friday through Saturday, as well as a sauerkraut workshop and a visit from the Blue Bird Book Bus.
Hawk said that her only new goal over the next two years is to participate in more community events. She wants to keep the shop experience the same as it’s been.
A St Petersburg resident for the past 30 years, Hawk said she doesn’t live far from the location and two years ago saw the space up for rent. She thought that it would make a great spot for a coffee shop.
So with her business partner Greg Bauman, who had over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, they started Black Crow.
Months into the journey, Hawk said, her employees and customers were asking if they could hang up art around the coffee shop.
“I just say yes. I don’t even look at what they want to put up half the time,” Hawk said. “I”m not here to judge their art, I’m here to give them a place.”
Black Crow has evolved from a simple coffee shop, selling gluten-free baked goods and cappuccinos to a center for artists and creatives. It happened organically, Hawk said.
As she hired more people and gave them the space to be themselves, they started bringing their artistic expressions to work and customers did so too.
Filipe Bergson considers himself a regular, attending Black Crow at least four times in a week. He goes there to meet with people, to drink coffee but most often, he goes to work.
A USF St. Petersburg student and freelancer for Round House Creative, Bergson said he’s designed graphics and t-shirts, written movie scripts, and edited videos at one of the tables, coffee in hand.
“I love the atmosphere here, it’s full of inspiration and creativity,” Bergson said. “It’s full of inspirational people.”
Bergson considers the other people at Black Crow his “work buddies” often discussing projects and philosophy between bursts of productivity.
“There’s a lot of people who draw and paint here and you don’t see that at a lot of the other coffee shops in town,” Berson said. “At Black Crow, it’s kind of like walking into your crazy uncle’s workshop and it’s okay to spill some paint.”
On the first Saturday of every month, Black Crow Coffee premiers new art on its walls. Most of the work comes from local artists. Paintings, photography and comic strips are all given space to be seen.
Hawk said she also wanted to use Black Crow to help better establish the St Petersburg music scene.
From their open mic nights each month to their small acoustic shows, Black Crow has been providing local musicians a platform to get out in front of people.
Kyle Duey just moved back to St Petersburg from New Orleans. Upon arriving back in his hometown he’s been reforming his band Eyelid Cinema and playing open mics to hone his songs.
For the Anniversary he played Saturday night with local artists Mia Bury and Kerry Courtney. It was the first show he’s been billed on.
“Nowadays it feels like all the local musicians are being pushed off the Central strip,” Duey said. “Local DIY scenes are getting pushed out but it’s nice that local artists can play here and get recognized as being part of the community.”
During Duey’s set he asked the patrons to donate to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who are collecting donations for residents and workers affected by Hurricane Irma. Black Crow joined him in this effort by offering a donut to anyone who donated to the cause.
Early in the week, Black Crow had held a clothing and food drive for the same nonprofit.
Duey said he’s proud to know his community is so generous and supportive of each other.
“It’s important that people know they do have a place, to feel like you’re a part of something and belong,” Duey said. “It’s so cool that this place is open to that and all the people in it.”
Hawk said she can’t wait for to see what happens next and see what else the shop will do. She said that the community organically grew as soon as she opened its doors.
“It’s been amazing,” Hawk said. “I’ve just been behind the counter watching all of this beauty roll out.”