By Allison Hersh
For the past two decades, Gallery Espresso has served up more than just coffee, tea, sandwiches, salads and desserts.
This popular café also offers a generous dose of community, attracting a mix of caffeine-driven college students, 9-to-5 professionals and leisurely travelers, all of whom seem to appreciate the laid-back atmosphere at this café overlooking Chippewa Square.
“Gallery Espresso is a home away from home for so many people,” owner Julianne Davis said. “Our local base is so loyal, and tourists consider us an oasis.”
On July 19, Gallery Espresso will host a 20th anniversary celebration, including live music by the Ghost Town Crooners, cake, wine and more. The party is free and open to the public.
Gallery Espresso, which officially opened its doors in 1993, has the distinction of being Savannah’s oldest coffee shop.
The café originally opened on Liberty Street in 1993 in the storefront now occupied by The Book Lady.
In 2003, the venue moved to its current location at the corner of Bull and Perry streets, adding outdoor seating, a more spacious light-filled interior and an expanded menu.
“Twenty years is a real milestone,” said manager and gallery director Juliana Peloso, who has worked at Gallery Espresso for more than 16 years. “It’s definitely something to celebrate.”
In honor of the landmark occasion, a new 20th anniversary art exhibit features 77 works by 10 artists, all of whom are Gallery Espresso employees. The show sports a wide range of paintings, photography and mixed media work, hung on every available wall.
As anyone who has ever sipped a latte at Gallery Espresso knows, art is part of the DNA of this popular café.
Over the years, this beloved haven has served as a launching point for photographers, painters and illustrators attending the Savannah College of Art and Design and for many other emerging artists.
“We love art, and everyone who comes into Gallery Espresso loves it, too,” manager and gallery director Jessica Barnhill said. “You can’t be in an art town and not be open-minded to up-and-coming artists. It’s our passion.”
With its oversized windows, delightfully mismatched furniture and European vibe, Gallery Espresso serves as a favorite early morning and late-night gathering place.
The 1,750-square-foot café, which has 22 employees, serves a range of vegetarian items and gluten-free desserts, but Barnhill said the chocolate hazelnut torte, ginger chicken salad and white chocolate cappuccino remain top-selling items.
What’s the secret of Gallery Espresso’s longevity?
“We treat people like they’re coming into our home,” Davis said.“We try to keep things comfortable and consistent. That’s a great recipe for success.”
IF YOU GO
What: 20th anniversary celebration and artist reception at Gallery Espresso
When: 6-9 p.m. July 19
Where: Gallery Espresso, 234 Bull St.