In a time of fast-food coffee and rubber-stamp design, quirky Felicitous hits the senses like the smell of fresh coffee grounds.
This coffee and tea house in Tampa is beautifully and consistently inconsistent. Felicitous doesn’t always use the same font or logo, and they don’t go by set pantone colors for their logos and signage, but the feel of everything speaks with the same voice. And that narrative voice seems to say, “We don’t care about perfection, and we know you don’t either.”
The shop has a handmade, hand-drawn appeal, and the overall effect lets customers know that this place aims to be a welcoming and unique community space.
Which was part of her reason for opening Felicitous in the first place, owner Rani Chehal said. She was very interested in creating a space where people could study, meet other people in the area, talk and gather together.
“More than anything, I just like adding that to a community,” she said. “It’s that thought of: If it doesn’t exist, create it. And I think I’m just that person. Even if it’s difficult…I have that mentality. And then I enjoy local businesses anyway, so I think that’s why I gravitated toward [opening Felicitous].”
For Felicitous, the design is most definitely in the details. The baristas sling coffee from behind the counter in a 1920’s redesigned house, which is full of mix-matched and antique furniture. Some of the tables have been transformed into artwork by Felicitous’ creative and close-knit employees.
Everything in the shop has a point of view and a sense of humor—even the hand-painted sign that tells customers to turn on the bathroom light from the outside. In December, the walls are adorned with a handmade art sale that includes jewelry, aprons and leatherwork. At other times, local artists’ work hangs on the wall, turning Felicitous into a facilitator of the Tampa art community.
The outside of the house is painted with festive colors—a periwinkle purple and a bright green. These colors are echoed in many aspects of Felicitous’ visual identity, pulling the different elements together.
The graphic symbol featured on the business cards and website is an illustration of the house, and Chehal says it was originally designed that way so customers would be able to recognize Felicitous immediately. The old location, Chehal said, was on a road with a high speed limit, and she wanted an image that actually helped people spot the building itself.
“In that situation, we thought, ‘Let’s make the logo something that people can identify and look for [in] the actual building,’” Chehal said.
Then, once Felicitous moved to the new location, Chehal and her graphic designer decided to continue with the façade-themed symbol so that it still related to the old store.
The sign outside of Felicitous boasts a purple and green coffee cup, and the shirts for sale have a different font and feel. Once again, the disparate elements of Felicitous’ visual identity come together to form its idiosyncratic, full-of-character appeal.
And that’s a good strategy to draw in the ideal customer, who Rani describes this way: “The customer who appreciates local business and is patient and understands what this business is. That’s it’s not a fast food restaurant, and they kind of understand why it’s different than all of the franchises and chains. And they appreciate it, and you can see that they appreciate it.”
And the customers who walk through the door and are immediately impressed by the look and feel of the space are usually the ones who keep coming back. In that way, Felicitous centers very much on repeat customers—customers who can step inside and know, based on the type of music playing, who’s working behind the counter that day.
With its characteristic quirk, Felicitous has made itself a community haven by speaking to customers with a voice that resounds. The Fred Group concludes: Quirk works.