‘An Artists’ Hub:’ Downtown coffee shop becomes Serendipitea, offers new menu

words and photos by Colleen Hanke

Relaxing, calming, quiet, and uplifting is how new co-owner Kelli Curtin describes Serendipitea & Coffee Cafe, formerly Wholly Joe Coffee House. 

Wholly Joe was opened downtown by David Fertig just last year, but after a disagreement with former business partners, the cafe has been renamed and transformed into Serendipitea. “Negatives from the past are disappearing and a sense of newness is in the air,” David says. “Kelli has a great handle on the business as well and she is giving it the kick it rightly deserves.”

The name isn’t the only thing changing — the menu is too. Serendipitea will be offering more vegan and gluten free options as well as more types of teas. 

“You have your people that really want their tea when they come in here and the people that really want their coffee so we’re trying to find a balance between the two,” says Kelli Curtin.

One of the things that Kelli brings to the table is her background in holistic food. She believes that food can be a form of medicine and healing to people. Making healthy food available to all people is part of her mission at Serendipitea.

The new menu is going to feature a variety of options for people with dietary restrictions.

“There a quite a few [people] daily that come in and their looking for, ‘Do you have gluten free? Do you have vegan?’ ‘Do you have dairy-free?’ is another big thing,” Kelli says. “We have all the dairy-free alternatives for making your lattes and all that good stuff.”

The new name was stumbled upon during a conversation between Kelli and her daughter.

“I said serendipity, but I wasn’t thinking tea and coffee café. I was just thinking serendipity and she was like ‘Mom, that’s perfect. Serendipi-TEA. Tea and coffee,’ Kelli says. “She actually created the logo and everything. It was kind of a mom talking to daughter and it just kind of turned into, ‘Woah, that’s an awesome idea.’ Everybody’s loved it so far.”

Part of what Kelli will be bringing to Seredipitea is an appreciation for the arts. The cafe will be displaying local artists’ work and a stage will be installed for musicians to perform in the cafe. Curtin would like to see the space become an “artists’ hub.”

That’s probably the biggest thing besides the food, is that we’re really trying to connect with local artists,” Kelli says. “All my kids are artists and into art. I think we need more of an outlet for that and more exposure. So I really want to tap into that. We’re even going to do a thing and display art from the children’s hospital, from the kids that are in the hospital sick.”

In the basement of Serendipitea, where a stage will be built, the walls are being transformed into a 3D mural by artist Jordan Serpentini. Jordan says it will be the first of its kind in Akron.

The grand reopening for Serendipitea has been pushed back due to construction on Exchange Street. Construction has been an ongoing issue for the business from the very beginning. Kelli says walking traffic has decreased significantly. The grand reopening is currently set for August.

“We’re pushing it out until August and we’re gonna do a large taste-testing event… try and get some feedback on baked goods and soups and all that kind of stuff to see what people want,” Kelli says.

Kelli is striving to make Serendipitea a place where all people feel relaxed and welcomed.

“I wanna reach more people. I’m into a lot of the healing type work and such,” she says. “I kind of want to make this one of those places where you not only feel calm, relaxed, and have a healing relaxing vibe, but also be able to self-express.”

Serendipitea is located at 11 E Exchange St #101, Akron, OH. Their hours are Monday-Friday 8 am – 5 pm and Saturday 10 am – 4 pm.

Colleen Hanke is a Media Studies student at The University of Akron.