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Effingham Magazine

Plenty of Curb & Coffee Appeal

Story by Stephen Prudhomme | Photos by Tonya Perry

As a real estate agent, Dana Kirkland is adept at finding the perfect home for her clients. The Rincon resident proved equally proficient when it came to finding the perfect spot for the family business—a place offering plenty of curb appeal, friendly atmosphere and an outstanding cup of joe.

Kirkland and her husband, Patrick, are owners of Paddles Coffee. The coffee and sandwich shop is located in Springfield, at Laurel and Madison streets, and opened in 2019. It operates out of a building that previously housed offices and a boutique.

The star attraction, not surprisingly, is the coffee.

“We’re very proud of our coffee,” Dana said. “It’s fresh and no older than two weeks. The peak freshness for coffee is 10 to 14 days. Coffee on the store shelf has been there for 45 to 60 days.”

Dana buys the roasted beans in bulk from Fusion Coffee, a local company that reached out to her through social media when she started her business, and goes through 10 pounds a week. She said they brew a more medium roast of bean and offer their own branded blend of beans for their drip and espresso coffees.

For those who want to spice up their coffee, Paddles has 20 syrups, including traditional favorites vanilla, hazel nut and caramel. Also available are seasonal favorites.

“It’s mostly maple now,” Dana said. “In spring, we’ll have lotus, lavender and rose.”

Paddles’ menu is not limited to coffee. It also features sandwiches. Noted Dana: “We try to offer healthy options.”

Dreams Become Reality

The shop is the culmination of a longtime dream for the Kirklands.

“We always talked about opening a coffee shop,” Dana said. “Both of us are big fans of coffee. Being in the Navy, my husband was used to drinking coffee, although it wasn’t good coffee. It’s hard to find good coffee in rural areas. Our goal was to bring a place to the community where it would be available.”

Their first choice was Rincon, but Dana said there was too much competition. Nearby Springfield was a different story.

“The only place to get a good cup of coffee was at the gas station,” Dana said.

Seeking to expand the coffee options in Springfield, the Kirklands looked around for a place that could bring their dream to fruition and found it at 401 Laurel St.

“The building is what we envisioned,” said Dana, noting they redid the plumbing. “It has lots of character.” Family and customers, many of whom become friends, complement that character.

A Family Affair

Dana’s cup runs over as she works at the shop and as a realtor. Her sister, Brittany Mingledorff, is the manager. Her mother, a cancer survivor, comes in once a week and stamps the bags and coffee sleeves with the shop’s logo. Patrick, who’s retired from the Navy following a 22-year career and works in IT at Gulfstream, comes in on weekends. The couple’s two daughters, Analisa, 12, and Layla, 10, pitch in with various tasks and contributed to the shop’s name, Paddles—a loose acronym for the Kirkland clan.

“The family that works together stays together,” Dana said. “The customers enjoy seeing the girls grow. We also enjoy seeing our customers and watching their children grow. If a regular customer doesn’t come in, we worry.”

Paddles offers free wi-fi, which attracts college students and homeschoolers, according to Dana.

Shelby Boyles started working at Paddles shortly after it opened. Her mother went to school with Dana and found out about the new coffee shop on Facebook. Boyles had previously worked fast food and said she didn’t feel that important or indispensable.

Such is not the case at Paddles.

“I really like how small the business is,” said Boyles, a barista server who, along with Dana and the rest of the staff, performs various tasks at the shop. “It’s a nice environment. We have a lot of regular customers, and I know most of them by name.”

Boyles stands by Paddles’ signature item: “The coffee is so good,” she said. “I can’t drink coffee anywhere else.”

Like Boyles, Mingledorff feels right at home at Paddles, starting with the opportunity to work with her sister.

“This is the most time we’ve spent together,” said Mingledorff, who’s 12 years younger than Dana and wasn’t around her that much while growing up. “It’s very enjoyable getting to spend time together, make decisions as a family and cutting up together. We enjoy picking at each other. We really work well together.”

The family feeling carries over to the other employees and customers. “We have very loyal customers and we love them,” Mingledorff said. “We make it personal with them. If they’re having a bad day, we talk to them about it. People tend to be irritable in the morning, but they’re in a good mood when they’re about to get coffee.”

Carla Hill certainly is one of those loyal customers. She goes to Paddles every morning. “It smells wonderful in there,” said the Springfield resident. “Their new tiramisu drink is phenomenal. I get my husband an egg, cheese and bacon croissant. It’s nice and fluffy and warm. Their quiche is also very good, and I like that they try new things with it.”

Hill described the staff as super, super nice, noting they remember your name and order and ask how you’re doing. She added that Paddles has been especially welcoming during the pandemic.

“They’re really serving the community by being open,” Hill said. “Lord knows you need your coffee.”

Although the coffee is fresh and so much better than most, according to Mingledorff, it’s not necessarily the main drawing card. “The atmosphere is the main thing that brings people back,” she said. “It’s the morning Cheers bar without the alcohol.”

Mingledorff worked as a manager at other places for four years and said there’s no comparison to her present job.

“This is much less stressful,” Mengledorff said. “It’s a happy place. My other jobs meant going to work.”

Dana said their main goal is to grow the shop. To that end, they’re adding a walkout freezer and cooler and considering doing deliveries.

As with other smaller businesses around the country, Covid-19 hit Paddles hard, according to Dana. Unlike many of them, however, Paddles did not have to close its doors.

“We had to pivot and rely on takeout,” Dana said. “The reopening of schools and the courthouse has helped. Business is good.”

Dana said she enjoys owning a business, adding it carries its own special challenges.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “It keeps you busy. If you can’t do it full time, you’re not ready. We have a good support system. That really helps.”