By Abby Bittner
Brunch spots have grown in popularity in recent years, and St. Augustine is slowly joining in the trend.
Most of these cafés, however, do not account for college students, which makes Ancient City Brunch Bar stand out – after all, the baristas and chefs behind the business are two students themselves.
Everything on Ancient City Brunch Bar’s menu is handcrafted by Emily and Sophie Schroeder, twin sisters that recently graduated high school.
Their family is big on brunch, which inspired them to bring their passion to St. Augustine. “A lot of people are just like, ‘We don’t have any breakfast places or quick food places,’” Sophie said. “That’s literally what we do, so why not?”
As incoming college students themselves, Sophie and Emily want the brunch shop to extend into a welcoming study space. “We wanted it to be a good study atmosphere,” Sophie said of the shop, which already has a printer and free Wifi. “It’s definitely a place for anyone at Flagler, or anyone who’s maybe doing online school, or just in the area in general to sit down and have a cup of coffee. We want to have the comfort of family.”
The twins, who have worked at other coffee shops prior to their own, are also skilled in baking. “We’ve been baking at home for years, and when quarantine hit last year, it was a pastime that we just enjoyed doing,” Emily said. “We’re able to bring that aspect here, so now we do coffee and homemade baked goods.”
Emily and Sophie, who are known for their pumpkin bread and gingerbread cookies respectively, focus mostly on seasonal items and specials.
The sisters rely heavily on customer feedback to craft unique specials for the menu, from quiche to coffee. “We have to just listen to what people tell us. Brunch food in general, people will always go for it,” Sophie said. “People are always down for a little muffin or a cookie, even just a cup of coffee.”
While the shop opened about a month ago, they experimented with St. Augustine crowds prior. “We did open during Nights of Lights just to get a feel for what it would be like, but that was more of a soft opening,” Sophie said. “Just seeing what people want, what times get busy and getting a feel for what it’s like to be in St. Augustine on our own.”
With both girls planning on attending Florida State University in the fall, they are already equipped to balance work and academics. “We’re pretty good about choosing which days we work, and communication has definitely improved,” Emily said.
Being a small business already, the twins also support fellow local shops to create a one-stop-shop feel for customers. “We supply coffee for the (Trinity Parish) church on Sunday, so we get some recognition with that. We have local distributors for a lot of our goods, like Menorcan Mike’s salsa,” Sophie said. “We definitely bring in other parts of St. Augustine, not only to get other people in those areas to check us out, but to offer everything that you could probably get anywhere else just in one little spot.”
Along with St. Augustine, the twins and their family want to spread the business to other historical places. “I know that my parents plan on branching out into other ‘ancient’ cities, like Charleston or Savannah, to bring in not only the tourists, but to have that level of appreciation and have our own little spin on it,” Sophie said. “Something that a lot of people don’t necessarily know about or have, like a brunch bar, and having that good balance between the two is definitely something we want to bring to St. Augustine and other cities.”