The Local Buzz, Columbia, SC
141 S Shandon St, Columbia, SC 29205
This is the story of a coffee shop that is succeeding without a grand marketing plan or perfecting branding. When you visit The Local Buzz, you won't get a custom sleeve on your coffee with a trendy design. The shop doesn't serve coffee inside minimalist ceramic coffee mugs or even uniform mugs for that matter. Nope. You'll either get a plain white coffee cup with a 'Splenda' sleeve or you'll grab a mug for yourself off a wall filled with a random display of mugs.
Now before you start coming to a conclusion about what I'm about to say about this coffee shop, read on. I'm not telling you all of these details as a critique. I'm telling you these things to illustrate that this coffee shop is about way more than skillful latte art, craft pour-over options, or plant walls (though I do love all these things). It's about the heart of the coffee shop: community. It's about making a place that feels like home as soon as you walk in. I'm here to tell you, the owner Stephie has created a space welcoming to EVERYONE.
To be honest, I had no intention of visiting this coffee shop. But I'm so glad I did. I had been with a friend down at Rosewood Market and taking advantage of their yummy kombucha and unparalleled beat burger. PS: Rosewood's cafe lunch and kombucha on tap is worth the special trip. It's a favorite of mine and I'm certain it will be yours too, once you visit.
I asked one of the ladies at Rosewood where to go for a coffee and she said a great local shop was just a couple blocks down the way. I was surprised because I had NO idea - and usually I have a a pretty good nose for sniffing out coffee shops.
Sidenote: Rosewood Market gets an A++ for its cafe and kombucha
It was somewhat tucked into a corner section of a plaza, but once I saw the 'Buzz' part on the sign, I knew we hit the right spot.
Looking at the menu, I got the sense that I wasn't in a high-nosed specialty shop. There were no placards discussing the coffee notes or an for more than one coffee bean. The menu didn't offer pour-over; but it did offer nitro cold brew, an affogato and frosted coffee. I got the sense that I was truly at a LOCAL coffee shop.
But one look at this coffee wall, and I thought, I can't go wrong!
I initially wanted to get a drip coffee just so I could use the 'Carpe Caffeine' mug! However, my 3 PM afternoon vibes pulled me towards a latte. Fortunately, my friend treated us to a sprinkle-rimmed cannoli, so she made that decision easy. We concluded: there is no easy way to split a cannoli.
There are many things to admire about this shop, but chief among them is their integration of other local shops into their own. The Local Buzz serves Sweet Cream Co ice-cream, Double Trouble Donuts and Silver Spoon pastries. Of note, they've developed a wide range of gluten-free, vegan and even paleo pastries and cafe food options.
After we got our coffee and finished our cannoli outside at a little table, we ventured inside to check out the interior. A little girl had just finished celebrating her 10th birthday so clean-up was in the full force. Stephie - the owner - for some reason felt the reason to apologize for the fun birthday decor and that's when the story began to unfold.
We learned, upon returning from Hawaii, Stephie had this burning desire to open a coffee shop where local youth in the community had a place to come hang out. A safe place. A fun place. And a place that made you feel at home.
One look and you can recognize upon a glance that she's accomplished that! So much happens in this space: Bunco, book signings by local authors, The Breakfast Club, Middle School Girl's Night Out, and Adult Coloring Club nights.
Stephie got the name 'Local Buzz' from a shop she'd been to admired in Hawaii. She also worked for quite some time with Parent to Parent, an NGO supporting parents with children of special needs. She went on to create the 'Breakfast Club', an opportunity and place for teens and tweens to hang out with their parents and build a healthy relationship.
PS: I haven't seen a lava lamp in over a decade. Remember when they were THE THING!?
The shop is also a part of the Little Free Library moment. You know... take a book, leave a book. Tell me someone who doesn't LOVE this concept?!
Don't let the books and board games fool you, the Local Buzz now serves local beer and wine as well. So there are two buzz elements happening here!
This is a place you come and stay awhile. Chat with the staff. Converse with the locals. Grab a mug off the wall and refill often. The Local Buzz truly heralds the feel of 'I'm here for you!' The accommodating staff and friendly owner are genuine about creating a space for community. It's refreshing amidst a world consumed with the perfect aesthetics and polished branding. It's just here for the people. I can certainly celebrate that!