Remembering the Globe Coffee Lounge, a creative safe haven

A force for good — and for good coffee — the Globe closes Dec. 21 as owner JoEllen Schilke takes a full-time job at WMNF.

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JoEllen Schilke at The Hub.
  • Michael Conway
  • JoEllen Schilke, the Lady Madonna of the Burg — at The Hub in Downtown Tampa.

The first time I walked into the Globe Coffee Lounge, I was 14. Looking around at the menagerie of tchotchkes and art, I imagined this must be what the inside of someone's brain looks like. I used to sit outside the front doors, smoking Black Djarums and getting an early start to my coffee habit. Each of the mismatched coffee mugs had a different story; the white coffee cup covered in dinosaurs demonstrating various sexual positions was considered something of a good-luck charm.

But the Globe will be closing Wednesday, December 21, after 12 years. The Globe's owner/chef/baker/barista/security/DJ/events coordinator, JoEllen Schilke, recently was hired by WMNF Tampa to be their volunteer coordinator. Schilke has hosted Art in Your Ear on WMNF for many years and has worked at the station as a reporter, DJ and volunteer voice for the community. She has had her lovely pinky on the pulse of the St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay community for quite some time.

"I have gotten my dream job as volunteer and outreach coordinator at WMNF, 88.5 FM, the community radio station in St. Pete. This will give me a bigger venue for creating community and making the world a better place! Plus there will be sleeping, much sleeping," Schilke told the New York Times in an interview Monday.

The Globe served more than just a good cup of coffee, or a strong iced chai. With Schilke as guiding force, the Globe became a space for creativity and community for many in St. Petersburg and beyond. I saw my first Geri X show at the Globe in November of 2006. The same night, former WMNF/Creative Loafing writer (and now my friend) Dawn Morgan interviewed me for the Sticks of Fire blog about raising children around music:

“Kids should be raised like my parents did it,” said 17-year-old Globe attendee Arielle Stevenson. She came out from Largo with a friend to see Geri X, whom she’s heard so much about through word of mouth but has yet to see play live. As the daughter of jazz musicians and a bit of a singer herself, Arielle said unabashedly, “We didn’t have any money.” Her parents worked a slew of odd jobs in order to keep their music alive and relied at times on their own parents for financial support. Arielle is busy applying for college, earning money as a waitress and busting her ass as WMNF’s only regular high school-aged reporter. But it didn’t take a reporter’s observation for Arielle to learn about living out ones’ dreams early on. Rather, it was just something she picked up from her folks.

In my freshmen year at USF St. Petersburg, I convinced two of my girlfriends to drive with me from Largo to the Globe after our first taste of psychedelic brownies. It did not go as planned. It was, in fact, among my worst decisions to date.The Globe was bustling when we came in, and we ordered about $50 worth of food from then-employee Bryce Munger at the counter. Within minutes, we all three found ourselves hallucinating and sick in the women's restroom. Munger called my dad and he came to pick us up.

JoEllen was very forgiving. I learned that the only brownies I needed were the Globe's Supa-Fudgey variety containing no mind-altering substances — only love and good chocolate.

Schilke talked to the Times about her reasons for opening the Globe.

"The vision was to make a place that felt grounded, that could have manifested only in downtown St. Pete, where all sorts of people felt at home."

That was certainly true for me. I've stopped by the Globe, stressing about a looming deadline, and JoEllen would slip me a chocolate or a brownie, slowing down my heart rate and effectively stopping my tears. She really did cater to those odd moments in life where you needed a place to focus, feel creative, and get a good cup of Joe and a hot meal for about $6.

Open late into the evening, the Globe functioned as a creative safe haven for many. Free wireless with purchase, and baristas who knew more than your name — they knew your story. Through strong coffee and homemade baked goods, the Globe proved that artists, writers and musicians didn't have to go to New York City or Los Angeles to find community — they could find it right here in St. Petersburg. But those that benefited from that philosophy are — at least for now — the ones who typically had only about $5 or less to spend.

Two weeks ago, New Roots News and Studio@620 hosted a community forum on entrepreneurship that included Schilke on the panel. I knew she was working both jobs and knew that it couldn't last that way for long, so the event was somewhat bittersweet. But she should be proud of her influence; she helped lay the groundwork for the changes on St. Pete's 600 Block, provided a meeting place for Occupy and other groups, and served as a grounding force for the Keep St. Petersburg Local campaign. No one compares to Schilke and the Globe when it comes to ingenuity and community support. Her immediate presence on First Avenue is going to be sorely missed.

The Globe is closing Wednesday, December 21, with a garage sale of the aforementioned thotchkes on Boxing Day, December 26. The Solstice Celebration on December 21 offers one last batch of Schilke's edible delights and tasty caffeinated drinks. Her Facebook page hinted that there may be coffee sangria for the final bang.

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