Horatio Isadore talks Southern Cofe’s new look and BR’s coffee culture

Since first opening Southern Cofe in 2017, Horatio Isadore’s business has made a total transformation. What began as a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in Scotlandville has expanded into two locations, including the newly renovated flagship store and a coffee and food stand at Main Street Market downtown.

Both Southern Cofe spots serve coffee, tea, smoothies, salads, acai bowls, sandwiches, fresh-pressed juices and other health-conscious foods and beverages. Since opening the newest location at Main Street Market in March, Isadore has been focusing on reaching new audiences at the downtown stand while also renovating the original coffee shop with the help of new owners KMT Holdings and Development. When it reopens, the Scotland Avenue cafe plans to have an upgraded fully functioning podcast recording studio, a modernized interior, and a spacious food display for refrigerated goods and fresh fruits and veggies.

Here’s what Isadore thinks about  local coffee culture and Southern Cofe’s future.

How do the two Southern Cofe locations differ?

The market location is more concession-style and inside a shared space with other vendors. Our Scotland location is really our flagship store. It’s who we are.

What can people expect from Southern Cofe looking ahead?

What you’ll be walking into is what the space will look like for the next 20 to 25 years. It’ll be innovative and look like today’s world. We’ll still have our signature blue walls. Everything has been leveled up, from our menu boards to our refrigerators. We received a grant from Healthy BR that allows us to operate our fresh produce program, where we’ll sell fresh fruits and vegetables to combat the food desert in the community. We also have our podcast center, where you can still record shows, and the coffee shop can still be rented for events.

When is the Scotland Avenue location supposed to reopen?

It’s looking like this fall. The whole building is getting a renovation. The building has been in the community for over 75 years. It was time for young blood and young energy to come in and see their vision through for the next 50-100 years. KMT Holdings and Development is heading the acquired purchase of it, the renovations and operations.

What inspired you to renovate?

Well, it’s either pivot or die. When we initially started, we weren’t who we are now. We wanted to level up and make this place look the absolute best and like it could be in any part of town.

What community role do you aim for?

To listen to the community. They didn’t start the business, per se, but once we started, they took it over, embraced it and gave us their suggestions. We took all of that information and spit that back out, and what you see is what we’ve learned.

How has the local coffee industry changed since you went into business?

Dramatically. We used to have three milk options: whole milk, skim milk and 2%. We now offer over nine milks. You have to be able to cater to your customer’s needs. The days of you being the driving force of what people consume are over. They’re going to dictate how they spend, because they have more options than they’ve ever had before.

What are your thoughts on the local coffee scene currently?

It’s gotten so sophisticated where you can sophisticate yourself out of the business. I’ve always wanted to keep it old-world and simple, but also not be so old in how we operate to a point where you don’t want to come. We don’t want to be so sophisticated where you feel like you’re in wine country. We want to find that happy medium, that sweet spot in the middle.

This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of 225 magazine.