Five years ago, Tommy Bolger set out on a mission of sorts.
He wanted to find a way to build relationships within the community that would benefit the organizations and missions that so many in the Florence community and others around the world were working to help.
And then it dawned on him: What better way to build a relationship than over a good cup of coffee?
“I’d worked with so many groups that were doing such amazing work, but I realized there was little personal connection,” Bolger said. “There are all kinds of people in this community with huge hearts who would love to help different causes, but other than giving money, they didn’t know how to go about it, didn’t know what to do with all that heart and energy or how to connect. That’s where the idea for Lula’s originated.”
“Lula’s” is Lula’s Coffee Company, a 501c3 shop offering bold brews, a whole lot of heart and an even bigger personality.
“We wanted a place where we could build those relationships,” Bolger said. “So if you saw a segment on ’60 Minutes’ about human sex trafficking, I could say, ‘Hey, come meet the people working to stop this.’ Come sit down and talk to them about how you can help, and then you’ll have that personal relationship and we’ll get out of the way. From the beginning, that’s what we were committed to building relationships and I think we’ve done that. We’re still learning, but I think we’ve done a lot in our five years.”
Events and steady support at Lula’s have provided for numerous charities, from local organizations such as the House of Hope to international causes such as clean drinking water in third-world countries.
“It’s a neutral ground, a place to connect for people who are doing amazing work and people who want to do amazing things,” Bolger said. “We believed from the beginning we could incubate this and get these wonderful things done together.”
The idea has been a popular one, as Lula’s draws an eclectic crowd of loyal coffee enthusiasts from morning until evening. The younger crowd has made it a regular hangout, but there are people many long beyond their school years who don’t go a day without a cup of joe at Lula’s.
And Bolger has learned plenty about the coffee business, too, so much that he and manager Jeff Felton started their own brewing operation a few months ago. Batch Nine is now brewed and sold both in-house and online at drinkbatchnine.com.
“There are a lot of people in Florence drinking a lot of good artisan coffee,” Bolger said. ” So Jeff and I started talking about giving it a try. Our first eight batches were all over the place, but on the ninth one, we said, ‘Hey, I think we can do this.’ Hence, the name Batch Nine.”
As Lula’s continues to grow and prosper, Bolger has a new endeavor on the horizon, this one a full-service, smaller boutique restaurant with coffee as well as beer and wine in the “little house” near Five Points that’s currently home to The Pink Hanger. This shop will be totally separate from Lula’s, but it’s a project Bolger is excited to get started on.
“I’ve always loved that little house there,” said Bolger, who in 1997 opened the popular eatery and pub Loopy’s Restaurant on Second Loop Road with longtime buddy Jack Revell. “Loopy’s was night and day from where we are now. We were a lot younger and things were just different, but there was a lot we did right there that I’d like to incorporate into the menu. And I want to make it fun. I want it to be an atmosphere where people want to hang around, not just eat dinner and leave. I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be with Lula’s. Things will continue to grow there, and I’m excited about opening up a new place. This is what I’ve always done. It’s what I enjoy. I can’t go sit at a desk. This feels like what we should be doing.”
Lula’s Coffee Co. is at 600 Pamplico Highway in Florence. For more information, visit its Facebook page (@LulasCoffeCo) and follow it on Twitter (@LulasCoffee). You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843-407-7250.
This story appeared in the November/December issue of Playlist Magazine.
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