Just Love Coffee Cafe on Old Meridian Street is a cafe with a heart. Besides serving up delicious beverages and scrumptious food, the recently opened establishment is dedicated to giving back to the Carmel community. The corporate company’s mission to benefit local philanthropies is what attracted Owners Erika and Peter (P.J.) Steele.
“Just Love Coffee started out in Nashville as an internet company that sold roasted coffee beans,” Erika Steele says. “It was founded by Rob Webb as a way to raise money for families shouldering the expense of adopting internationally. People could smell the beans being roasted and began to stop in wanting to buy cups of coffee that we started making with the help from coffee machines rent services. So, he put in a cafe and started to franchise. Webb realized that different locations would gravitate to their own nonprofit interests, so he gave the individual franchises the freedom to do that.”
Steele moved to this area from Houston when her husband was offered a job in Indianapolis. A native of Greenwood, she was excited to come back to Indiana to be close to family. Although she had worked as an engineer in the space industry, she was working for a nonprofit when the family decided to relocate.
“It felt that moving was the right decision,” Steele says. “I absolutely loved running the nonprofit in Houston. It involved a food pantry, disaster relief, and aided clients to get medical and dental care. I thought I would stay in the nonprofit world, yet my husband comes from an entrepreneurial background. We got connected with Just Love Coffee, and their mission of giving back is who we are.”
Steele’s goal is to focus on a different local nonprofit each month. She is currently researching organizations and is particularly interested in bringing awareness to those that get overshadowed. In January the O’Connor House was the first to benefit, when friends and family of the staff ordered and ate in exchange for gifts of diapers, gas cards, paper towels and monetary donations.
Just Love Coffee has locations throughout the south and the Midwest. People who know the brand are excited to pop in to buy the small-batch roasted beans. Besides more than 10 classic espresso drinks such as cappuccinos, the cafe has signature lattes. One of the most popular is the White Chocolate Tiramisu. Also available are drip coffees, cold brews and teas. Barista boxes of coffee that serve 10 to 12, and gallon jugs of cold brew or tea, can be purchased to carry out.
The food has an amusing twist – every item, minus the fresh salads, is cooked on a waffle iron. The menu includes lots of specialty waffles served with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, but don’t overlook the savory offerings. Many come with unique sauces that were especially developed to complement each item. The grilled All American BLT is served with jalapeño mayo, and sun-dried tomatoes accompany the Roast Beef and Cheddar Melt.
The cozy interior has fun aspects as well. When customers walk in, they immediately notice a huge hanging light fixture in the shape of a waffle. Also noteworthy is the turntable that drinks are served on. Each franchise owner is encouraged to design their lazy Susan with a unique motif that is special to them. Steele’s family members are huge Indy 500 fans. Steele, her sister and her father ran the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon together several times and hope to do so again this year. The logo on the cafe’s turntable reflects this with the phrase “Coffee starts your engine” embossed on it.
“In the future we hope to have events such as bingo and trivia night,” Steele says. “It’s been wonderful already. It’s a real family endeavor. My niece works in the kitchen. We have amazing customers that have already become regulars. Carmel is the perfect place to play and shop. This location checked off all the boxes. It has an amazing patio for warm weather, the floor plan worked and it is close to good parking. I am grateful to our wonderful team members. They have learned our menu items and how to make our craft drinks. They are the secret sauce.”
Just Love Coffee Cafe is located at 12525 Old Meridian Street in Carmel. For more info, call 317-296-3903 or visit justlovecoffeecafe.com.
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