In just under three years, St. Petersburg entrepreneur Stacha Madsen has established a coffee company that’s generated a cult Instagram following through its popular coffee flights and taboo flavors.
The Blend Coffee and Wine, founded in 2006 by Madsen, has blossomed from a small coffee stand in Seattle to a full-fledged growing brand in St. Petersburg with three locations and plans to add a fourth.
“I have zero fears – if I do something, I’m going to do it and if it works, it works,” Madsen said about making a gamble in the city while sitting down with the St. Pete Catalyst inside the shop at 1211 4th St. N.
Typically, coffee connoisseurs can find Madsen behind the counter pouring espresso shots and steaming milk. Her son also helps manage the 4th Street shop, while his younger sibling can be found greeting customers. Her daughter is also involved and manages the human resources, and she’s the person behind The Blend’s social media pages, including Instagram, where the restaurant has nearly 11,000 followers.
“Being an owner and operator has been very helpful. I get to be the barista, and I have that owner mentality,” Madsen said on juggling the multiple roles. “Us three make a solid crew.”
The cycle store-turned-coffee shop on 4th Street was the second location Madsen opened. Her two other shops can be found at 490 1st Ave. S. inside the Tampa Bay Times building, and at 2760 34th St. N., which was previously home to a sandwich shop.
Nearly three years ago, Madsen decided to uproot her life in Seattle for St. Petersburg. Madsen has carved out her niche in the market with her specialty coffee blend imported from a Seattle roaster.
A fourth shop is in the works for the west end of Central Avenue near the corner of Pasadena Avenue.
Although the off-market former Checkers location “went dark” last year, it was no easy feat to claim the space as the communication and negotiation period to assume the lease spanned over 11 months.
“I knew I wanted that area, drive-thru. It’s like a diamond in the rough,” she said, comparing it to the shop on 34th Street. “With 34th Street, as soon as I heard there with a shop with a drive-thru, I knew I could bring this spark to that area and it’s doing super well, and I feel the same with the Checkers location.”
Jessica Dwyer at the Dalton Wade Real Estate Group has aided Madsen in scouring for hidden gems and securing all of her locations.
“Prime restaurant space, especially with drive-thru opportunities, are true ‘unicorns’ right now,” said Dwyer, who started to engage with Checkers and the landlord last year. “This site is absolute gold for many reasons.”
Unlike The Blend’s other shops, customers will not be able to go inside the new restaurant.
However, Madsen will still design the space to match the aesthetic carried throughout the existing shops – and the new location will have plenty of outdoor seating.
There isn’t a specific opening date yet, but Madsen hopes it will be soon, and she’ll have a large sign on the property. There is also a 100-foot fence behind the restaurant that the artistic employees at The Blend may be able to paint with a unified theme.
Madsen is also in the process of rebranding the business name to The Blend: Coffee and Cocktails to reflect its new cocktail menu.
From seed to shop
“It was not easy to get to where I am today. Everything I’ve done has led me here,” Madsen said, almost in disbelief about her unusual journey.
In the suburbs of Seattle, she was a single mother raising toddlers while working as a certified accountant. When she wasn’t with the kids or crunching numbers, she was on the field playing soccer – a passion for nearly 15 years.
“I was leaving my house one day and this coffee stand was getting built on the corner. I thought it was cute and it went up for sale,” she said. With her go-getter mindset, she made the life-changing purchase.
“I didn’t even really drink coffee until owning it, and I made every possible mistake,” she chuckled, “but I’ve always been own-and-operated since Day One.”
Madsen said she never truly felt that she was meant to be in Seattle and wanted to go somewhere with sunshine all year round.
“What could be better than the Sunshine City?” she said.
It didn’t take long for her to call St. Pete home and she purchased a 100-year-old bungalow. “I know I’m not going to leave. I love it here and I’m invested – I’m all in,” she said about planting her roots.
Restaurant groups and investors have approached Madsen about partnership and ownership opportunities for The Blend, but Madsen said she hasn’t entertained the offers due to timing, or it not being the right fit.
“We feel like we can duplicate what we have and continue to do this and not lose who we are,” she said, adding she could envision more shops in the area.