Soap Co Calls Long Forgotten Space New Home

By Jeremy Coumbes on January 5, 2021 at 6:53pm

Empty tables sit ready for a return to indoor dining as customers order coffee to go from Nicole Riley, owner of Soap Co Coffee House in downtown Jacksonville.

New life has come into a long forgotten business space in downtown Jacksonville, now that a popular eatery has completed a long anticipated move.

The Soap Co. Coffee House has been a popular stop for many on the downtown square in Jacksonville for six years. The cafe initially focused on drink offerings such as coffee and capucino, flavored teas, iced coffees and Italian sodas among others, later expanding to offer soups, sandwiches and salads.

The cafe has now expanded again, moving just off the square to a larger location at 207 Sandy Street next to the offices of Congressman Darin LaHood. Owner of Soap Co., Nicole Riley says this is the third location the coffee house has called home, and having more space was a no brainer, even when it meant moving just off of the square.

Yes, our third location here, we moved once after about 6 months because it was just clear that we were growing too quickly. And the last one served us really well but the kitchen was like a closet and here its like a castle, so it was easy to make that decision.

Not being on the square isn’t too much of a problem when you think about all the new parking we have. I mean we have a whole parking lot right outside the door so it doesn’t bother us so much.”

Soap Co Coffee House has relocated to 207 Sandy Street just off the square in downtown Jacksonville.

The coffee house now occupies both sides on the first floor of the building which was last occupied in the 90’s briefly by an arcade, and prior to that both the Belle Air bar and J-Bird’s. New ownership purchased the building and have undertaken a three year renovation to breathe new life into the long forgotten space.

Riley says the current seating capacity is the same as the former location in the Hockenhull Building on the east side of the square. She says though that as mitigation efforts due to the pandemic lessen, more seating will be added.

She says with the expanded kitchen and dining space, both an expanded menu and hours of operation will eventually follow.

The hours we will keep as they are right now until we get the staff comfortable with being here and we can expand from there. The same with the kitchen. We are going to grow into it so we don’t get ahead of ourselves too fast.

We are going to do a trial brunch this weekend to help us work on the kitchen, what kinks in the process we need to work out and what kind of equipment we might need to add in the future. So, lots of growth in the future.”

Riley says the trial brunch this weekend will include a pork belly Eggs Benedict on Tex Mex cornbread she first made at home a year ago in anticipation of the eventual move.

Nicole Riley, owner of the Soap Co Coffee House and an employee prepare pickup coffee orders in the new front counter area. Soap Co relocated to 207 Sandy Street over the holiday week to expand both seating and the menu.

Riley says she and her staff are looking forward to getting back to hosting events such as the popular poetry nights and lighter musical events held at their former location, but for now, Riley says after the big move, she’s looking forward to the simple things returning, hopefully sooner than later.

I just can’t wait until people can simply sit at a table and enjoy a cup of coffee. That’s plenty to make me happy right now.

As soon as people are able and comfortable to come in, this space is much bigger. People can spread out more easily. The stage is more setup for it. The other space was nice but if you were upstairs it was difficult to see who was speaking or hear them sometimes.”

Riley says they closed at the old location on Christmas Eve, moving almost everything over to the new location that weekend, then spent most of last week getting settled in in time for their soft opening New Year’s Eve morning.

She says so far customers have not had too much trouble finding the Coffee House, and they along with her are looking forward to the day they can sit down and enjoy both the new space and menu offerings.