‘A leap of faith:’ Apopka coffee shop opens during pandemic serving up family recipes
APOPKA, Fla. – Danielle Bjork is pouring love and family history into her Apopka coffee shop.
She said she took a leap of faith after opening her business during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brewing a dream
Bjork said she has always had a strong connection to coffee after her grandmother introduced her to the caffeinated beverage when she was six years old.
“She’s drank coffee my whole life. I’ve never not seen her with a cup of coffee,” Bjork said.
Bjork said coffee and desserts were two staples at any family event. She recalls everyone racing to get her grandmother’s banana split.
“It’s always been a pound cake or a pie or something that always accompanied our coffee and our family gatherings my whole life,” she said.
Bjork has since passed down her passion for coffee to her four children. She said while she was homeschooling them four years ago, she got the idea to open her own coffee shop.
“We just wanted a change in scenery, so I would take them to different coffee shops around town and we would sort of just start daydreaming about what it would be like to have our own shop one day,” Bjork said.
‘It was a leap of faith’
Bjork said she started planning to open her coffee shop at the end of 2018.
She found a location in Altamonte Springs with plans of converting an abandoned house into the business. She wrote a letter to the owner but never received a response.
Bjork said by the beginning of 2020 she started getting discouraged. Then later that year the COVID-19 pandemic hit Central Florida.
“It was the perfect timing, despite it not being the perfect timing,” she said.
Bjork said she noticed an empty storefront in the Wekiva Riverwalk shopping plaza where her gym was located. She said she called the management company who was supportive of her idea to open a coffee shop.
“It was a leap of faith for me to call and really pursue in the middle of a pandemic, but it worked out great,” she said.
She opened Birchwood Coffee Co. in May.
“We prayed about it. We wanted to make sure it was the right timing and though many things kinda fell into place that were completely out of our control we took that as a sign that this was the right time, the right place for us to do this,” she said.
Steeped in family
Bjork pours her passion for coffee and family into everything she does at the shop. Even the name of the business is steeped in the family.
“Our last name is Bjork, which is of Scandinavian descent, and most people can’t pronounce it, so birchwood is actually the definition of Bjork so we just went with it,” she said.
She offers specialty coffee drinks, as well as a breakfast and dessert menu. She said the desserts are from her family’s recipes and made from scratch.
“My grandmother’s cheesecake, pound cake. I also have aunts, uncles, and then a great-grandmother her sweet potato pie,” Bjork said.
Bjork said the best seller is her Grandma Ruth’s buttermilk pound cake.
“It excites me that recipes that we’ve got to enjoy for years now the public can,” she said.
It’s also a family affair inside the business. Bjork’s father is often in the kitchen making the food, alongside her husband who created the quiche recipe. While not in school, her children are often inside the store helping.
‘Leave a legacy’
Bjork said she loves sharing her family’s recipes with the community.
“It’s the best way I can think to honor them and they’re delicious,” she said.
But she is also looking forward to the future.
“Our goal, my husband and I, is to leave a legacy. Our biggest dream would to have ultimately have a minimum of four locations and that’s just one intended for each of our children because we want this to outlive us, even outlive them and for these family recipes to never die,” she said.
She said she’s grateful for the support from her family and children, adding she’s glad they can see her going after her dream.
“They get to see my dream realized and know that we’re setting them up to be able to carry it on, there’s not a better feeling,” Bjork said.
She’s sharing advice to others who are interested in opening their own businesses.
“If I can do it, anybody can. Write the vision, make a plan, follow the passion, see it through,” Bjork said.
Birchwood Coffee Co. is located at 2107 E. Semoran Blvd. Unit D in Apopka. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Follow Birchwood Coffee Co. on Facebook and Instagram for updates on coffee classes, new additions to the menu, and future events.
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