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Mathis Report
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 18, 201805:20 AM EST

The Mathis Report: Southern Grounds coffee shop on track to open in San Marco

Train tracks run past it, offering patrons a view of logistics several times a day.

If you followed San Marco Train on Twitter, you know the locomotives running – and stopping – through the historic district south of the St. Johns River carry their own personality.

Owners and operators of the new Southern Grounds coffee shop welcome it.

Several times a day, the tracks to the east of the coffee shop offer free entertainment for patrons as trains pass by.

Business associates Ned Jones and Mark Janasik hope to open the coffee shop today or Tuesday at 1671 Atlantic Blvd., featuring breakfast, brunch, soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, tartines, protein grain bowls, charcuterie and cheese, children’s fare, seasonal items and beer and wine.

There also are pastries, breads, cakes and beignets as well as other food, shirts, hats, mugs, wholesale coffee, wine and food for sale to take out.

The San Marco Southern Grounds is at 1671 Atlantic Blvd. just west of the railroad tracks.

“I think we’re successfully trying to pair food, coffee, everything together in a coffee house of the future,” Janasik said.

“You don’t just go in and get a cup of coffee,” he said, explaining there is food to eat on-site or takeout; indoor soft-seating, tables and chairs, a long conference table for groups; a coffee bar; and an outdoor deck and seating separated by a fence from the train tracks. Local artists, such as acoustic singer-songwriters, providing “coffeehouse music” are anticipated for Fridays and Saturdays.

The coffee menu includes drip, espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, cold brew, French press, lattes and more, along with smoothies, tea and hot chocolate. They offer Intelligentsia coffee, a pioneer in the direct trade coffee movement.

Janasik and Jones plan to offer games for children, perhaps beanbags and life-sized Jenga.

“This is truly a gathering spot,” Janasik said, echoing the Southern Grounds tagline: Gather together.

Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday. Total seating is 60. It will employ 15-20 people.

Garage doors open to the deck, which offers a view of Downtown. The deck is dog-friendly.

San Marco is the second location for Southern Grounds. The first opened in Neptune Beach. There, like in San Marco, Jones owns the property and Janasik operates the business.

Mark Janasik, left, and Ned Jones inside Southern Grounds.

They are looking for more sites. “I like finding unique spots,” Jones said. He said he buys locations where Janasik likes to run the business.

Jones mentions Downtown, Lakewood, Avondale, south Jacksonville Beach-north Ponte Vedra Beach and other communities as sites to consider.

They didn’t disclose the investment cost, but it appears to near at least $1 million, based on permits and the cost of buying the 3,600-square-foot building.

Jones paid $340,000 for the property in June 2016. The 17 permits issued since November for construction, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work and for signs total almost $571,000.

Those costs don’t include equipment, furnishings and inventory.

The large kitchen can produce baked goods, soups and seasonal specials for the Neptune Beach shop at 200 First St. Catering will be offered.

The building, developed in 1967, most recently served as an antiques and liquidation business. Jones thinks it opened as a paint store. It backs up to Landon Middle School’s football field.

Parking, always a question in San Marco, includes about 20 spaces next to the building and leased space for 30 more across the tracks. There also are bike racks.

Janasik believes they are contributing to the revitalization of east San Marco.

 “We took a building that was 60 years old and made a considerable investment, and I think this part of the trade area is being regentrified,” Janasik said.

The neighborhood is noticing.

“I like that it’s a local coffee shop,” said retail specialist Bryan Mickler, president of the San Marco Preservation Society.

“They’ve obviously spent a lot of money on that building. It’s going to be fun,” he said.

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