Taking a risk: Brenda Fant

Ashland resident hopes to open coffeehouse
Sunday, November 6, 2011 | 4:43 p.m. CST; updated 7:13 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 6, 2011
Brenda Fant talks with customers at the Lakota Coffee kiosk in the University Hospital on Friday. Fant has been involved in the coffee business for 14 years, and she hopes to open a coffeehouse in Ashland next spring. "I live in Ashland now, and there is no coffee shop, so I hope to have one that people can meet with each other and have fun," Fant said.

She knows it will be exhausting. And she knows it could fail. But after three years of thinking about it, after three years of scoping out vacant buildings and plotting inexpensive marketing strategies, Brenda Fant has decided it's time to open up her own coffeehouse.

A native of Macon, Fant, 42, has held a variety of jobs since moving to Columbia in 1987. For four years, she worked for the Columbia Forestry Department. For six years, she ran a small landscaping company. She bounced around but always returned to the same place: Lakota Coffee Co. She’s working her fourth stint at the coffeehouse, this time as general manager of its kiosk in University Hospital.

In 2008, her son, Alex, was born. Her relationship with his father deteriorated shortly afterward, she says, and he’s no longer in the picture. She and Alex live on an old flower farm in Ashland.

“We call him ‘Meatball,’” Fant says of her son. “He’s a handful. Being 42 and doing this on my own, it’s been quite the experience.”

Since Alex was born, she's wanted to open her own shop, and after three years of having her money tied up in day-to-day living and not being able to afford health insurance for herself, she decided it’s time to stop shying away from her idea.

She’s found the perfect location, she says, in an old, unoccupied butcher shop near downtown Ashland. She sat outside of it on a recent Tuesday morning to gauge the passing traffic. Between 6:30 and 8:10 a.m., she counted 722 cars driving by. She had to leave when Alex became restless.

To open the shop — she's aiming for next spring — she’d have to operate on a shoestring budget, and at first, probably wouldn’t have enough to hire employees.

Fant smiles at the notion of a “one-woman show,” but seems well aware of how overwhelming going at it alone could be.

“I try to mentally prepare,” she says. “Is it feasible? Raising what will be a 4-year-old and still taking care of myself mentally and physically?”

To help make it work, she says, she’ll probably create a loft space in her café for Alex to sleep in.

She has second-guesses, but says she tries to bury the negativity. “I’m a confirmed believer in you manifest what you think about,” she says. “And I’ve been a pretty good manifester.”

Next page | Jason Lewis, Columbia salesman, hopes to start nonprofit youth league

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