tampabay.com

Duo fires up pottery/coffee shop

By Elizabeth Bettendorf, Times Correspondent
Published February 20, 2008


TRINITY

The cozy coffeehouse tucked in the strip mall along Trinity Boulevard exudes the kind of karma you can't always order at your neighborhood Starbucks. ¶ Walk in, sip an espresso and kick back to Diana Krall crooningS'Wonderful. ¶ Paint some pottery, while you're at it, too: a coffee mug or chip bowl, or, soon, very soon, a ceramic powder room sink.

"We want it to be a very homey kind of place," says co-owner Linda Sessa.

Home is what it's all about at Paint UR Pieces, the coffeehouse and paint-your-own pottery business launched in January by Sessa and business partner Lindsey Seddon, two Pasco residential real-estate appraisers with a big dream:

"We want to open four of these," says Sessa, with a laugh.

And she's only half kidding.

Last summer, when a teenage relative of Sessa's came for a visit, a trip to a pottery painting cafe in South Tampa's trendy Old Hyde Park Village sparked the idea.

"People were talking, parents were listening to their children, friends were chatting about silly stuff," recalls Sessa, who along with Seddon owns S & S Real Estate Service, a business they launched in the early '90s.

"We thought this is where we'd like to be with our business someday. We don't want to get rich; we just want to make a living."

The two are just as serious about coffee as they are about pottery: their beans are from Jaguar Coffee Co. in Spring Hill, which also designed their house blend.

Seddon, 59, and Sessa, 47, still work as full-time appraisers, a job that takes them from Trinity - where their business is based - all the way down the Gulf Coast to Manatee and Sarasota counties. The pottery cafe is their second life, the place they spend most of their time away from work.

Was it scary launching a business in a shaky economy?

"We're nuts!" says Sessa, a former professional singer from Brooklyn who once signed a record deal with Casablanca Records the sudden death of a band member marked the end of her singing career.

"We dumped everything into this in the middle of a recession," she says. "My philosophy is: 'You can literally either lie down and die or keep on going. Do you just wait for the other shoe to drop, or do you put another shoe on?' "

The back wall of the 1,200-square-foot shop is scribbled with graffiti from friends, well-wishers at their kickoff New Year's Eve gathering. A sign tucked in a corner says: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

That, says Sessa, "wraps it up in a nutshell, what this place really is."

So far, the shop at 9945 Trinity Blvd., the first pottery/coffee cafe in west Pasco, has been attracting a lot of business: moms, dads, Boy Scouts, teenagers, groups of friends looking for a way to spend a quiet evening. Sessa and Seddon say Trinity is booming, a far cry from the rural, almost desolate Pasco County they remember from the early 1980s.

"There was nothing north of 52 except Weeki Wachee," Sessa recalls. "I used to go into Clearwater Beach all the time."

Jokes Seddon: "Back in 1983, I still had my machete!"

Seddon and Sessa met while working at a local bank, the former Community Savings on Ridge Road. Seddon, who moved to Pasco County from England, was working as a processor. Sessa, a mortgage banker, left to join a real-estate appraisal firm and later launched her own.

She soon brought Seddon on board because "she was an excellent typist, a great spokeswoman, and - with her (British) accent - really classed the place up."

When the two work the counter at the coffee shop, they're usually accompanied by Maggie, an affable bichon frise, and Tinka, a miniature dachshund. They say they get to know a lot of their customers well, like friends, while whipping up coffee drinks like their famous "Pup-a-ccino" - a coffee blend with vanilla, hazelnut, Irish cream, Kahlua and caramel flavors.

They're also hoping to be able to pour a little wine for customers someday soon: They've applied for a license from Pasco County. For now, though, visitors are content to relax with a cup of French roast, a paintbrush and something cool to paint. The store stocks a big selection of trivets, pet bowls, wine coolers, plates, mugs and magnets. For the more ambitious, the powder room sinks are on the way.

One woman even took a plate home and imprinted it with her baby granddaughter's footprint and handprint.

On a cool Monday morning in February, Michael Capozzoli, a jeweler and artisan whose shop, Trinity Jewelers, shares space in the same strip mall, painted his own yellow-and-blue espresso cup - fired by Sessa and Seddon in their new 1,800-degree electric kiln in back.

"I come over every morning for my espresso and every night to say good night," he says. "It's so relaxing in here."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

If you go

Paint UR Pieces

Where: in the Trinity Oaks plaza at 9945 Trinity Blvd.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Cost: Adult painting fees are $10 plus the cost of pottery, which ranges from under $2 to about $30. Children's painting fees are $8, plus pottery costs.

The menu: Owners Linda Sessa and Lindsey Seddon, longtime Pasco real estate appraisers, also serve a wide array of coffees in the shop, which doubles as a coffee bar. They are applying for a beer and wine license.

For more information, call Paint UR Pieces at (727) 376-2111.