By Grace Staudenmaier and Fletcher A. McCall
WINTER PARK—Coffee and cigarettes are a famous combination, and the inimitable aroma of both will lead you to the little, orange Central Florida safe-haven: Austin’s Coffee & Film, residing off Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park.
You can stop by the shop at any time enjoy a cup of coffee, listen to music, and even play one of the many board games lying around. The atmosphere makes it the perfect place for just about anyone to spend some time.
For many, however, Austin’s means much more than just a local hangout. Performers, writers and comedians, and everyone in between, experience the sense of community the second they walk through the graffitied door.
“Especially in places like Winter Park, what you see is that it’s really losing a lot of its character, a lot of any reason that you would wanna be here is because of the cool places like this, because cool places like this make cool people, ya know?” asked Cody Lennord, emcee of open mic [music] night.
“And you wanna be around that right? You don’t wanna be around Starbucks. You don’t wanna be around Dunkin Donuts. But you wanna be around Austin’s because it’s neat. Adding to the community like that is something valuable.”
Over the years, Austin’s has established itself as a haven for artists, creative minds, and weirdos alike. It serves anything from coffee to booze, sandwiches to pastries, and good and bad performances.
The originality of Austin’s is unmatched, and the crowd is quite unusual (in the most genuine way possible). People from all walks of life will find a home there, whether it be for a few hours, or years.
With such a cult-like following, many dedicated fans will be there every night of the week, others stop by every spare moment they can find.
Locals wander its crowded halls, through a maze of random furniture, passing tribute art from past and current members of its congregation. Patrons shuffle across the checker-tiled floor in a flurry of red, yellow, and black, resembling a mismatched Belgium flag. The floor is strewn with giant burlap sacks of coffee imported from all over the world, footprints of all of Austin’s disciples and acolytes, and memories of the infinite souls that have floated in and out its glowing orange walls.
“We’re like a raft,” said Sean Moore, the co-owner. “When people get too tired of swimming out in the real world, they muster up just enough energy to swim here, check out and connect. Just long enough to recharge and go back out and keep swimming into open water.”
Though the opinion might be biased, since he is part owner (and full legend), this has been the most accurate representation of Austin’s to date. Some people live on that little orange raft, but others just swim over when the water is getting over their head.
There is no “Locals only” or unfriendly feeling inside Austin’s. Instead, customers are greeted kindly and treated like family, and with enough visits, everyone who makes their way inside becomes a part of it.
The following Austin’s has gained, along with its reputation, created a community that is unique and distinctive, and one that does not live outside its walls.
Customers learn each other’s faces and many become just like family members.
“I’ve been rapping all my life, actually about 33 years now,” hip-hop artist Danny Delamo said. “I really, I wanted to express myself. A buddy of mine used to come here a lot so I started coming and performing in front of these cats. Hip Hop means everything and Austin’s is a spot that gives me a chance to share that.”
Austin’s provides entertainment, food and beverage at a price that won’t make your wallet cringe. It is hard to find good coffee for cheap, and they live up to the high standard of giving their customer both.
All the food is fresh and local produce, and the coffee beans are raw and organic fair-trade imports that range from around the world.
Weekly events are free and most of them are open for participation. Newbies and musicians are encouraged to hit the stage. Austin’s opens its doors to all with an encouraging audience to cheer you on.
“It’s OK to bomb,” said Cody Lennord. “I think I did comedy night one time and it was awful. It was so bad; I was so embarrassed but like I still went up there and I did it. That’s a huge feeling and I get it but like no one’s gonna judge you and honestly there’s probably gonna be someone in the same night that you’re there; there’s probably going to be someone that’s worse than you are.
“And as long as you’re out here doing it you’re beating 95 percent of the people that are always saying they wanna do something. Don’t be the person that says they wanna do something but then never follows through. Just try it.”
Open Mic and Performance Schedule
Throughout the week, Austin’s Coffee & Film in Winter Park has an abundance of events that follow a consistent schedule:
• Sunday: Open Mic (Comedy)
• Monday: Hip-Hop Night
• Tuesday: Open Mic (Music)
• Wednesday: Open Mic (Poetry)
• Thursday: Jazz Night
• Friday and Saturday have no regularly scheduled events.