Charity Adriano didn’t plan on running a restaurant. But after 10 years of working in the local food and beverage industry, she had developed the skills to be successful.
“I really already had my hand in this business,” she said. “So I knew I could do it.”
But when the owner of the PJ’s Coffeehouse franchise in Surrey Center began thinking about retirement, Adriano only joked that she would buy it from her.
“My mom is the one who actually said ‘You should tell her you will buy it,’” Adriano said. Her husband, Ramon, a credit manager for Wells Fargo Financial, was more practical.
But in the end, mom won out. The previous owner retired. And Adriano bought the existing equipment from her and got the lease in her name. But she decided to make changes to the format. Thus, Aroma Coffee and Wine Bar was born.
“I prefer to be locally owned and operated,over a franchise. PJ’s was a franchise,” she said.
Her grandmother had long run Wisteria Manor in Aiken, and Adriano had worked with her since she was about 10 years old. She had previously baked at the Boll Weevil. And she’d worked at the PJ’s franchise. So she knew that being her own business owner came with more freedom and individuality. And by dropping the franchise agreement, Adriano was able to focus on the experience that she wants to create for her guests.
With a strong love for the bean-based brew, she wants to share that affection with others.
“I really want to get it down to the flavor of coffee, the flavor of wine,” she said. They’ve implemented a new product that is roasted in Athens, as opposed to roasted and shipped from a distributor further away. That allows for a fuller flavor to reach her clients. While she knows that jittery joes need their jolt of caffeine to stave off post-lunch laziness, she wants to encourage appreciation, not addiction.
Adriano has already expanded the dessert line from basic baked goods to cheesecakes and cakes, is applying for a beer and wine license, and will serve a select variety of cold tapas and bottled beer and wine in the near future. But she doesn’t want to run a bar. She’ll never apply for a liquor license. Her wine and beer sales license is pending.
“This is a prime location, Surrey Center, and people will be able to come in and enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer and not feel like they have to buy food,” she said. But it will be available. She’s looking at bruschetta, hummus and pita, an antipasto platter, olive tapenade, paninis, salads and something with smoked salmon, which is reason enough to stop in.
In the future, Adriano plans to host tastings of wine, beer and coffees, and will train her staff to help educate clients on the background and flavors of the beverages she serves.
It’s a philosophy that has already seen a 10 percent increase in business since she opened on April 1 — and that’s no foolin’.
Adriano is particularly interested in recycling, and offers milk jugs and coffee grounds to anyone who needs them for craft projects or gardening activities.
Aroma Coffee and Wine Bar
379 Highland Ave.