The Front Porch By Three Tree Coffee: Come for the Coffee and Stay for the Fun
Story by Walinda P. West | Photography by Jonathan Chick
A stroll along the 200 block of West Collins Road in Old Pooler reveals a mixture of mostly small, one-story, tidy homes that overlook the city’s municipal offices.
At the end of the block at 215 West Collins—between a red brick home and the stately white house that serves as home to the Greater Area Pooler Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau—sits a white clapboard farmhouse with its green metal roof, matching green shutters and a wraparound porch that invites guests to sit and stay a while. The house is home to The Front Porch By Three Tree Coffee Coffeehouse—or The Front Porch, as it is better known. The Front Porch is believed to be the only independently owned coffee shop in Pooler.
Once inside the front door of the 2,026 sq. ft.-house-turned-coffeeshop, the smell of freshly brewed coffee greets its brew-craved customers. Before the pandemic, most of the front of the store was filled with a long communal table and ample seating throughout that encouraged customers to sit together and mingle.
These days, though, the layout and seating have been modified to accommodate a new reality—social distancing—with a clear open space that leads to the coffee bar where baked goods can be purchased and specialty drinks are made to order.
While in-store dining is possible, seating is spare and strategic, mostly around the perimeter of the store. For coffee drinkers who want to stay for an hour or even the day, wifi is available. Board games also are at the ready in an adjacent room and a kids’ room is in the back of the house for families who want to enjoy coffee while keeping an eye on their children; another room can be reserved for special events or meetings.
The store’s wraparound front porch—its namesake—is one of the most popular hangouts and is filled daily with guests enjoying the outdoors at a table or a picnic table on the side lawn.
“I want everyone to feel invited in,” said Heather Taylor, a co-owner of the coffeehouse. Taylor, one of five owners of the business, took over The Front Porch nearly two years ago after the previous owner moved out of state; the partners kept the name of the shop.
This is the third venture for Taylor and her partners, who also run similar businesses: a flagship store, Three Tree Coffee Roasters in Statesboro and Three Tree Coffee Roasters at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. All three businesses share the same ethos: “Empower Farmers, End Human Trafficking and Engage the Community.” Labor exploitation is pervasive among the coffee and chocolate industries.
The Front Porch, under the Three Tree Coffee Roasters’ ownership, opened two weeks before the pandemic shut down the country and forced coffee shops nationwide to close or reduce hours or staff. Taylor said the businesses worked together to keep each other afloat.
According to the National Coffee Association, which tracks coffee trends in and out of the home, COVID-19 drove record coffee consumption at home, with 85 percent of coffee drinkers having at least one cup at home (up 8 percent since January 2020) and average daily consumption steady at nearly two cups per capita. The association said more Americans (nearly 60 percent) choose coffee each day than any other beverage, including tap water.
While enjoying new home coffee routines, about 35 percent of Americans said they miss their favorite coffee businesses and beverages. Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) are already returning to coffee shops, like The Front Porch.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many people at home for the better part of a year, and the latest 'Atlas of American Coffee' (a report produced by the organization) shows they took their coffees with them,” said William "Bill" Murray, NCA President and CEO. “In fact, we've seen Americans embracing their new coffee routines, experimenting with new coffees, and even trying to replicate their favorite beverages at home. Now, with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many Americans are also returning to their favorite coffee businesses or plan to,” Murray added.
Taylor said The Front Porch is still holding its own and is enjoying a loyal following based on social media recommendations and long-time customers who appreciate the welcoming atmosphere and down-home feel of the place.
On Facebook, the shop has nearly 6,000 followers and more than that in likes. On the popular websites that offer reviews—Yelp and Google—the shop has a near-perfect rating with most commenting as much on the coffee as everything else including the coffee artistry and the pictures on the wall.
Graydon Sheperd has been a customer of the Front Porch Coffeehouse for three or four years, he said. Sheperd was first introduced to the store when he lived in Pooler, but has remained a loyal customer, even though he has since moved to Savannah where he has dozens of coffee options.
“You can get coffee anywhere, but this place is special,” Sheperd said. He said he makes the 15-20 minute trek to The Front Porch, where he knows each of the staff by name and they know him and the coffee he likes. “It’s a welcoming environment here and you can sit here for hours.”
On a fall morning, Sheperd was conducting job interviews at the coffee shop for staff for a new dental practice he will manage in the area. His interviews were set for 10:30, 11:30 and 2 p.m., at a small table in one of the side rooms in the coffeeshop. Each candidate, he said, is offered a coffee drink of their choice while Sheperd orders his regular house brew. “I can’t say enough about this place. It is truly a welcoming place. I truly do love it and want it to be successful,” he added.
While the key to success is the warmth customers feel when they walk through the door, Taylor said having customers linger has an added bonus: more sales.
“People first and business second,” she said.
The Front Porch has garnered a following for its unique drinks with names like The Philospoher's Cup—a chocolate, caramel and toffee nut latte; the Flower Girl—a lavender and vanilla latte; and That’s my Jam—a white chocolate and blackberry latte. The Philosopher’s Cup is the most popular drink, Taylor said. “That’s the coffee that pays the bills,” she joked. She estimates she sells between 50-60 of that drink a day with lattes, in general, the most ordered.
The vanilla latte is the drink of choice for Tracy DuBois and her business partner, Heather Jackson, who frequently order the drink during their visits to the coffeeshop. The pair, who co-own WW Drayage Company, also use their visits to conduct finance and business meetings. “They stole us from Starbucks,” DuBois joked.
Taylor attributes the coffeeshop’s success to personalized service. She said she and The Front Porch staff make it a point to remember customers’ names and drinks as much as they can, and when there are customers they haven’t seen in a while, they want to know why.
“The moment you walk into The Front Porch in Pooler after nearly eight months and they are like, ‘Good Morning, Marcus,’ said Marcus Kevin Thompson, a poster on the shop’s Facebook page. “The drive from Richmond Hill to Pooler was worth it for the amazing coffee alone, but man do they know how to make you feel valued.”
Based on a Pooler Chamber of Commerce estimation, The Front Porch is one of six coffee establishments in Pooler, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Just Love Coffee Café.
215 W Collins St, Pooler, GA