NORFOLK — When Melissa Sanders was looking to open up a coffee shop with her husband Neil, she noticed the downtown area didn’t have much to show for local coffee lovers.
The couple has owned and run the aLatte Cafe for 12 years now, serving a wealth of coffee concoctions.
In addition to roasting their own coffee beans for the shop, Melissa Sanders also mentions the shop’s dedication to helping the arts in the city, specifically the Governor’s School for the Arts.
ALatte Cafe sits at the epicenter of several arts-related spots in the city.
Between dance studios, theaters and the Governor’s School, most of the afternoon service comes from the people who work and go to school right around the corner.
“People like convenience, they go to where’s closest,” Melissa Sanders said, adding her cafe is within walking distance of many businesses and shops in the city’s downtown area.
The space the cafe occupies is huge. Local art dots the walls and the space gets used for fundraising for scholarships for the Governor’s School for the Arts, she said.
Each year they raise about $3,000 to $4,000 which provides about six scholarships.
In turn they also try to hire a few of those students to work in the shop with them, she said.
The arts isn’t the only fundraising focus the shop has.
It boasts more than 200 giraffes that people have brought in over time to honor Melissa Sanders’ love for the animal.
One of its specialty lattes also raises funds for Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
The coffee the shop sells is what Sanders sees as their claim to fame, however.
“Our niche in the market is our freshness,” she said.
They roast all of their own beans and have been doing so for eight of the 12 years they’ve been open.
Two years ago a small fire moved them to a roasting warehouse in Ghent and Sanders said she hopes to see the shop expand its roastery even more in the future.
The couple and their staff have come up with all of the latte recipes customers can choose from and it isn’t uncommon for people to come in multiple times to try different flavors.
To check out aLatte Cafe, come to 321 Granby St. in downtown Norfolk or go to the shop’s Facebook page.