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Transformed gas station home to thriving Georgia coffee shop

A coffee shop has carved out a niche for itself in downtown Perry.

Morning by Morning Coffee Company is a certified organic coffee roastery that also offers freshly baked goods.

The family-owned business is located at 1012 Main St. in the former Pure Gas Station, which was built in 1957 and sat vacant for years. The renovated and expanded space includes rooftop seating. The coffee shop is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturdays.

“We need more coffee shops like this,” said Kimberly Charles of Warner Robins, who was enjoying the view from atop the coffee shop with childhood friends Natalia Stevens of Warner Robins and Fort Valley native Alexis McGhee. Having moved to Statesboro, McGhee was in town for the holidays.

Charles, who was drinking hot chocolate and munching on a cinnamon bun, said she especially liked “the ambiance … the atmosphere.”

Down below and seated outside near a gas pump left standing for ambiance when the station was converted in to the coffee shop, friends Jeff Yohe and Shellie Stone of Warner Robins were talking and sipping on freshly roasted coffee.

‘The coffee and the vibe’

“We’re regulars,” Stone said.

Yohe said they come for “the coffee and the vibe.”

Beth Cleveland owns and operates the coffee shop with one of her sons, Cleve Clevand, who’s the manager. The coffee shop grew out of her former Fort Valley business, Cleveland Organics.

“It really is a neat place,” Beth Cleveland said. “It’s fun and just a little bit different.

“We’ve had a lot of interest so we try to keep the quality of everything up and our coffee is really good. We work real hard to get the best flavor profiles when we roast the coffee so that we have some really good quality coffee. It’s super fresh roasted.”

Another son, Tom Cleveland, took over the organic pecan farm side of Cleveland Organics and runs Double Q Pecans in Fort Valley.

Her husband, David Cleveland, operates Cleveland Tree Company, a field nursery that grows trees on farmland near Fort Valley.

A challenging beginning

Morning by Morning was launched during the early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

While challenging, Beth Cleveland said they were blessed to be able to open with the drive thru. The inside remains closed to the public, though patrons may come inside to use the restroom as long as they are masked.

Customers order through the drive thru, whether in a car, on foot, on a bicycle or riding a golf cart.

“We’ve had a lot of people run their offices from here,” Cleveland said. “We’ve had some lawyers meet their clients here, especially their older clients.”

She’s also had a couple of folks writing their books.

“We’ve had a good many older people meeting here because they felt it was COVID friendly,” Cleveland said. “We’ve had a lot of people drive up on their golf cart and sit in their golf cart and eat …

“So, it’s been an interesting meeting place on things we had not thought of like insurance agents even have used it. Real estate agents use it to meet customers and talk because they have small offices or whatever. That kind of thing has been super interesting to watch how that’s happened.”

During sunny days, the outdoor seating has filled up, with chairs and tables from the inside brought outside to create more seating, Cleveland said. Saturdays tend to be especially busy.

She’s also been able to set up outdoor sales from time to time of their products from coffees sold by the pound or by the pot to mugs and T-shirts. They also sell gift baskets.

With the challenge of colder weather, they’re looking at adding outdoor heaters.

They’re also working on a payment system that would allow customers to order and pay from their cellphones, Cleveland said. On super busy days, sometimes they’ve set up a payment system outside.

The roastery

On a recent visit, Cleve Cleveland was roasting coffee beans in the 60 pound roaster. He explained how the roasting process cooks the acids and sugars out of the coffee to create flavor profiles.

“It’s like cooking a caramel cake,” Beth Cleveland said. “You kinda burn the sugars to where it tastes good instead of bunt and different coffees taste differently depending on how they’re processed, how they’re grown, the regions, the altitudes, the soils … All of that kind of keys in to the flavor of making your coffee unique.”

The coffee beans they purchase in 50 pound bags come from South and Central America, Africa and Indonesia, Cleve Cleveland said.

Their roasted coffee also is offered wholesale to churches, restaurants, coffee shops and offices.

“What we like to do is go into a restaurant or a church or an office and look at the equipment they have,” Beth Cleveland said. “We can also get equipment, but we look at what they have and we figure out like how their coffee needs to be packaged to make it easier for them; like how many ounces they’re machine needs to make it taste really good.”

Birdie’s Bakery

The bakery includes all sorts of pastries, breads, cookies, muffins, pecan brittle and other goodies.

“We make everything in house,” said Cleveland, who got the nickname Birdie from her grandchildren. “Think one of my kids called it Birdie’s Bakery and it stuck.”

The coffee shop’s cinnamon buns have become so popular that they’re now being shipped for sale.

Cleveland said they sell a lot of grits bowls and biscuits, especially the jalapeno pimento cheese biscuits, she said.

In addition to the plethora of coffee options, the menu also features specialty teas.

Cleveland was asked about how the former Pure Gas Station location came about.

“I used to do interior design years ago, so what I love doing is redoing buildings, especially old buildings and this one I’ve been looking at it for years and just always liked it,” Cleveland said.

“It’s real unique. It’s in a good location. I always thought it would make a cute grocery or coffee shop.”

So, the family bought it, restored it and added a kitchen and processing room for processing the coffee, she said.

Having previously served as a minister of music, either part or fulltime, for about 35 years, Cleveland said the inspiration for the name of the coffee shop came from a hymn.

“My favorite hymn is ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ … The chorus to that is, ‘Morning by morning, new mercies I see,’ ” Cleveland said. “I just thought that was a fitting name for your morning cup of coffee. Every day is a fresh start.”

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Becky Purser covers breaking news, having moved back to Middle Georgia in 2000. She’s also covered crime and courts primarily in Houston and Peach counties for The Telegraph. She’s also covered local government for The Daily Sun when it was a daily newspaper in Warner Robins, for the Kingsport Times-News in Tennessee and for the Bristol Herald Courier in Virginia. She’s a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
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