By Mimi Wood for The Island Eye News
From France to Japan to Australia, how did tiny Isle of Palms get so lucky to land Café Paname…a hip, new bistro specializing in locally roasted coffee?
Tery Stimis, one-third of the team, begins the saga, “I was working as an interior designer in Atlanta when I met Benjamin,” her husband, an antiques dealer, who arrived in the US from Paris in 2004.
The two were madly in love by 2007, when the antiques market was hit hard by the recession. Benjamin Boisson, a life-long bike enthusiast, saw a market for vintage and used bicycles, as Atlanta, despite the economy, was just developing the BeltLine, a story unto itself. In a nutshell, the BeltLine is an ambitious urban renewal project, connecting neighborhoods, businesses and restaurants via trails and parks, utilizing former railroad beds which encircle the city.
Boisson and a partner opened Atlanta BeltLine Bicycles, a full-service bike shop selling and repairing bicycles. It was one of the first businesses on the BeltLine, and as the shop’s reputation for excellence quickly grew, so did Boisson’s persona as “the French guy.”
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the world, Stimis’ son Paul Walker was completing his four-year commitment to the United States Navy as an air traffic controller, stationed in Japan. Utilizing his benefits as a veteran, Walker enrolled in Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, a country he’d longed to explore. “The coffee scene is huge in Australia,” explains Walker, who returned to his parent’s home in Atlanta after obtaining his degree, with a coffee dream in his heart.
“It was Paul who put the coffee and bikes together,” elaborates Stimis, as Café + Velo (French for ‘bike’), evolved out of Boisson’s original bike shop, as a casual spot on the BeltLine for bikers and hikers to relax and enjoy a cup of joe. And while the businesses thrived, Stimis, who was raised on the water in Long Island, NY, felt landlocked in Atlanta, and was anxious to return to a life by the sea. Having vacationed on IOP for the past ten years, she and Boisson “found Charleston to be a perfect mix of Europe and the USA.” Selling his share of the bike business to his partner, Boisson, Stimis and Walker relocated to Mt. Pleasant, opening Café Paname earlier this summer.
A recent Saturday morning found the café bustling with locals and seasonal visitors alike. After enjoying breakfast ‘crandwiches’, sandwiches on croissants, North Carolina native Christopher Couchell popped back in and ordered lunch to go for his family, exclaiming, “Yes, it’s that good! See you next year!”
Local Ryan Hamilton echoed Couchell’s sentiment, remarking although he’d “driven by several times, this is my first time in. It’s going to be a regular stop.” Devouring a salmon croissant with pimento cheese, he pronounced, “It’s dynamite!”
Stimis, Boisson and Walker are passionate about local sourcing, from eggs to coffee to kombucha to ice cream sandwiches. After searching high and low for the perfect coffee, Walker found it in Awendaw, from Andy Hay, Camino Coffee Roasters, who explains, “I roast in small batches, and utilize a process which replaces a lot of the acidity with a sweet note.”
Currently, the “drip coffee beans are from Guatemala, and the cold brew is a blend from Columbia, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. The expresso is a special blend just for us, from Brazil, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia,” expounds Walker, who shares not only Hay’s passion for excellent coffee, but his philosophy of fairly traded, sustainably produced beans.
The laid-back, local vibe of Café Paname reflects the relaxed, easy-going nature of the familial trio. “We want to live by the beach, become part of the community, and support local businesses,” concludes Stimis.
Café Paname is located at 1202A Palm Blvd on Isle of Palms, and is currently open Monday- Saturday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 3p.m. Anticipating approval of a license to sell beer and wine, be on the lookout for expanded hours, and the addition of French wine and local beer to the menu.