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Catalyze 2022: Kahwa Coffee owner Sara Perrier

Mark Parker



We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2022 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2022.

St. Petersburg-based Kahwa Coffee Roasters began selling its roasted Arabica beans in 2006, and according to its website, it is now the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida.

Founded by the husband and wife duo of Raphael and Sarah Perrier, Kahwa’s coffee products can now be found across the Tampa Bay region in hotels, restaurants, 15 Kahwa retail locations and 80 Publix grocery stores.

As we move into a new year – and hopefully emerge from the ongoing pandemic – Sarah Perrier said she looks forward to giving back to her loyal employees through expanded benefits and added incentives. She also plans to reassess and restructure the company some while resuming expansion.

“The last two years were kind of challenging, I would say, as far as expansion and stuff like that,” said Perrier. “So, just getting refocused on our brand and our focus on more of the retail stores because we weren’t really able to push that much during the pandemic.”

Perrier said she also hopes to enhance the customer experience digitally in the new year, and announced Kahwa is working on an app and a new customer rewards program.

“It’s our 16th year in business this year, too,” said Perrier. “So, it’s about that time to take a look at our brand and enhance that for our customers as well as our employees.”

Kawha is well established in the Tampa Bay region, and Perrier said that before the pandemic, she was considering branching out into different geographical areas – “mainly in Florida.” She mentioned the Orlando market as a possibility, along with moving farther north and south along the west coast of the state.

“I think getting that strong direction of where we’re heading is going to help us move into expansion into new areas in Florida,” said Perrier.

Perrier said she is also looking forward to opening two new stores in St. Petersburg in 2022. She said the first is on Park Street, in a former Starbucks location in front of a Total Wine store. She said they are experimenting with design and operation tweaks, and that it should be open by the end of January.

Perrier also noted the Kahwa would likely break ground on its new location on 4th Street in the coming weeks, after experiencing permitting delays. That café is using repurposed shipping containers to create a drive-through store. While Perrier is excited about the project, she said the novelty has caused its construction to take longer than expected.

“There hasn’t been anything like that in St. Pete too much,” she said. “So, It’s been kind of challenging as far as getting permitting done … but I think we’re finally ready to break ground.”

Perrier said emerging from the pandemic is what she is most looking forward to in the new year and said the last week has been rough with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly through the community. She looks forward to people being able to gather and fellowship in coffee shops again, without the worry of catching or transmitting a virus. She also looks forward to taking Kahwa to the next level and believes geographical expansion and the new app will help accomplish those goals.

“We’ll be announcing more details about that, but that’s going to be a really good experience for the customer,” she said. “Just being able to reach customers in different ways, so that’s going to be exciting for us too.”

Perrier said she would announce more details in the next few weeks, and hopes to have the app online by March.

Perrier noted St. Petersburg has recently experienced tremendous growth, and like many others, she looks forward to seeing what becomes of the Tropicana Field redevelopment in 2022. Perrier said she hopes Kahwa will be a part of the redevelopment project and looks forward to growing the company in conjunction with the city in the years to come.

Perrier mentioned several times how much she loves the St. Pete community and would like the city to make sure it retains its identity amid growth in the coming year.

“Part of the appeal of St. Pete is all the local businesses,” said Perrier. “So just keeping that feel and making sure that stays at the forefront.”

Part of St. Pete’s identity is its thriving arts community, a community close to Perrier’s heart. She has a performing arts background and wants to see performing arts receive the same attention in the city as the visual arts in the new year. Perrier’s love of the arts has also led to another endeavor for Kawha.

A fun project is in the works, she said, through a partnership with the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. She said Kawha would work closely with local artists to produce commemorative coffee containers. Perrier added that a portion of those proceeds would go to a fund for local artists created by the Arts Alliance. She said they are in the very early stages of the project, but she looks forward to having it out in the coming year.

“We’ve been coming out with different coffees and different ways people can support local artists and local foundations,” said Perrier. “As they’re drinking their coffee, they can kind of give back too, and that kind of the way we like to give back.”





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    December 31, 2021at7:43 am

    Kahwa is my regular hang out in Sarasota when I’m in town so now that I’m in St Pete, I’m happy to have Kahwa here. The staff is great and they have featured exceptional local artists. Keep up the good work!

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