t takes only two trips to the Conyers coffee shop with the funny name to understand why Kaiteur Coffeehouse is so special. It’s during the second trip, when you’re greeted by name, that you begin to realize Mustapha and Shealy Halley are brewing something more potent than just great coffee.
"Most people don’t know that they need what we have in here. They don’t realize they need the sense of community that is felt in here," said Mustapha Halley, known to everyone as "Moose."
"But when they do come in, they come back. Not necessarily because of what’s in here, but because of the dynamic that is created by the different people who come."
Halley said that dynamic — the sense of connection people feel with each other across race, age and gender lines — leaves customers with the understanding that the people they live with everyday aren’t half bad.
"Something special happens here. We get this chance to bring people together. People
in a community this small should be connected," said Halley.
And that connection starts behind the counter with Halley and his staff. They greet their customers by name and often remember their drink orders – a feat that Halley said is a result of trying to reach people on a deeper level.
"It’s not about knowing your name, it’s about knowing your story. It‘s important to Shealy and I to get to know the people we live with and around," Halley said. "There are so many Bills, Bobs, Jills and Johns that come through the door. So if it was only about the name, it would mean nothing. But we invest our time in learning your story. And when that happens, knowing your name and your drink order come easy."
Located in the Publix Shopping Center at the corner of Milstead Avenue and Sigman Road, Kaiteur Coffeehouse opened its doors February 2007. The staff uses the walls to showcase artwork by local artists, allows local performers to hold shows there and posts daily quotes near the register to spark conversation. Halley said it’s all about fostering a sense of community.
"We (the Halleys) didn’t create this business because we wanted to be special or we wanted to be like coffee shops in Buckhead. This was our opportunity to create something that appealed to us. And the great thing that happened is that the same thing appealed to other people too," said Halley.
The shop gives customers a place to relax, enjoy hot coffee, frozen drinks and pastries, and fellowship with one another.
"I had a customer tell me that Kaiteur is where you come to get what you need before you have to go back out into the world," said Halley.
While Halley and his staff strive to encourage and inspire people everyday, he said running the coffeehouse has changed him in many ways also.
"I have friends who say they don’t recognize the person behind the counter because of the transformation that has taken place," Halley said. "It leads me to the conclusion that people don’t know what they are really good at. But it’s there and it’s a gift that only they can bring to the world."
It may be the coffee that draws new customers to the shop, but Halley said he hopes that they leave with something unexpected.
"We serve the same stuff as Starbucks. It’s all coffee. But what you get here that you won’t get anywhere else is this sense of connection."