Latte Luna open late for Bradenton's night owls

Coffee house caters to the night owl

cschelle@bradenton.comMay 30, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Debra Short was so bored one night in Bradenton, she decided to start her own business.

Short finished watching a movie with a friend at her house, and after it wrapped up in the early evening, they wanted go somewhere to hang out that wasn't a bar.

"I couldn't think of any place to go," Short said. "I thought there's a puzzle piece missing here, so we decided to do something like this."

What she ended up doing is opening up an evening coffee shop called Latte Luna, 2715 Manatee Ave. This isn't a place for the early birds to grab some caffeine and bolt out the door to work -- it's a place to chill and unwind. The hours should give it away -- along with having Luna, Spanish for moon, in the name. The shop is open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

"I'm a nurse by profession, and I always worked the second shift, so it kind of came naturally," Short joked.

Short renovated the former Flowers by Don shop, putting in a kid's room with a high chair, a game closet, a book exchange area and added a new coat of paint to make the place feel like home.

"I wanted to make it feel like you're at home and not feel like you're in an institutional setting," Short said.

Funny enough, she borrowed some hospital concepts from her seven years at Manatee Memorial Hospital. As the staff roves around, illuminate the light on the table to signal you need something so you don't have to get up out of your chair.

"You don't have to come to the counter to order. We'll come to you and find out what you want," she said. "That way once you park, you don't have to get up again.

Need a snack? A food cart will make its way through

the café with the day's special that can be added to your tab.

"All the food that is made on the food cart is made-to-order, so you can still get it anytime," said Megan Short, Deb Short's daughter and employee. "There's people who come in just for drinks not realizing what the food is or if they don't think they want anything. Then you go through and they see them and smell them, and think 'Oh, I will have that.'"

That table-side service is one of the key differences from most coffee shops, Short noted. Instead of customers paying each time they want a brownie or a mocha, they will run a tab and pay at the end of their visit.

"The one thing I love to provide is a place where people are kind of getting nurtured," Short said. "They can sit down and refresh themselves and spend time with friends. There's no rush here."

Latte Luna gets their beans from Fiamma Coffee in Sarasota, which provides flavored beans.

"The only way you can get a flavor in coffee without adding syrup is if you soak the beans in oil, which is what we do with them," she said. "We have hazelnut flavored coffee that doesn't have any sugar in it."

The desserts are all homemade and family recipes, and will rotate weekly, including candied pecans, an Oreo peanut butter brownie and her own favorite:

"Ham and cheese sticky buns are the bomb diggity," she raved. "They are addictive. They are really, really good."

Thinking about tipping the staff? No tips here. But if you do, tips will be placed in a jar to go to a charity of the month. Part of each month's proceeds also go to charity, she said. The first featured charity is the Lupus Foundation, she said.

The shop is very much a family operation for Short, whose husband Bill Short passed away. Her five children, Brianne, Megan, David and Emma Short all pitch in from to time, and the oldest, Jen, who is in Massachusetts, helped early on. The in-laws also help out there, too, she said.

Her experience raising five kids and owning an infant care center in the 1980s in Bradenton can be seen in small touches around the café. Whether it's the candy jars, board games, the high chair in the kid room and even covers on the electrical outlets to prevent kids sticking their fingers in the socket.

A room in the back has a door for privacy, ideal for groups, and if an organization needs the whole place, the 55-seat cafe can be rented out during the day before the shop opens, or on Sundays when the cafe is closed, Short said.

Where Short lacks in coffee shop experience, her children make up for it working in area restaurants and café, she said.

"Some of my kids have experiences working in food places, but I haven't, but you know what? I'm a widow with five kids, so if I can handle that, I can handle everything," she said.

As a tribute to her late husband, she sells Moon Pies in her candy area, and a "Redneck Six Pack" that includes four Moon Pies and two RC colas. Deb and Bill, a youth pastor and former employee at Prine Elementary School, would host teenagers at the house all the time, and had to constantly whip up some snacks to feed the ever-hungry teens.

"He would love this. This would be right up his alley," she said.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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