By: Kathryn Murray
In small-town Tifton, Georgia, it’s not uncommon to find a crowd gathered outside an old gas-station-turned-quirky-coffee-shop named Espresso 41. The hometown coffee roastery, owned by Justin and Belle Golden, has a local allure and fun, eclectic vibe capped off with a couple of vintage trucks on display out front.
Espresso 41, or E41 for short, was inspired by Justin’s time spent in Nashville, Tennessee. While touring with a friend-turned-musician there, he spent numerous hours in makeshift coffee shop offices. “I just fell in love with the culture. It was a different style of coffee shop than what you normally see if you don’t come to a big city,” he says. “I wanted to open something similar, but with what I like, my style, and my decor.”
His love for his hometown of Tifton drove him back there to open up the coffee shop. “I love Tifton,” he says, “and wanted to bring some culture to Tifton. Hosting art events from local artists and hiring local people…that was important to me.”
As for choosing an old service station as his location of choice, Justin was motivated by his lifelong love of cars and the fact that his grandfather used to own a service station. “The old service station here was right up my alley,” he says while looking at walls covered with classic car memorabilia in a style that makes you temporarily forget you are in Tifton, Georgia.
Chances are folks aren’t showing up just for the coffee though. The additional appeal is the ability to purchase unique floral arrangements from the back of Belle’s Flower Truck. Southern and vintage, colorful and cute, full of charm, appeal, and of course, flowers, Belle’s draws quite the crowd wherever she goes and regularly sells out.
Justin and Belle have only been married for three years, but that’s long enough for them to have had their first child, establish a local coffee shop, and for Justin to purchase a 65’ Chevy and then convince his wife to convert it into a flower truck. Betty the Chevy is her name, and Belle chalks up the idea for a flower truck up to her husband’s vision. “I wasn’t very gung-ho about it, but he knew it would work,” she says.
After Belle became pregnant with their first child, they decided to make some lifestyle changes so she could stay home. Opening the flower truck was one of those changes. “I still had staples in from my C-section when we opened,” she laughs. “From day one, I was putting flowers together in the back of the truck. Justin taught me how to make the bouquets and how to wrap them.”
Belle readily acknowledges flower arrangements were not something she had ever expressed interest in until her husband pushed her towards it. “He encouraged me. It was a passion of mine that I did not know I had. It just came naturally.” The community support was there from day one, she says, and they’ve never looked back.
The two plan to continue expanding both E41 and Belle’s in the South Georgia region. E41 currently uses Grassroots Coffee out of Thomasville as a roaster, but they are in the process of establishing Tifton’s first roastery in a nearby renovated building as well as establishing other coffee shop locations in South Georgia.
As for Belle, she has opened up a storefront as well as purchased a separate truck, Dolly, who travels regionally in South Georgia. Betty the Chevy stays put in front of E41 or travels only within the Tifton vicinity. Belle has also added seasonally themed flower design workshops in the last year, which have been hugely popular, often selling out within minutes of being advertised.
When they’re not busy dreaming up new business ventures and initiating culture in the local community, Justin and Belle love to take weekend trips with their son and spend time with nearby family.