When we’re in the drive-through of a coffee chain muttering under our breath about how long the person in front of us is taking to order, or spilling it on our favorite shirt, or guzzling it down for an extra boost of energy, it’s easy to forget how special a cup of coffee can be. A cup of coffee can be the first date of many to come or a much-needed conversation with a friend – it’s a connection. In Winter Haven, three sisters inspired and fueled by their mother’s love, run a coffee truck offering that connection along with a cup of joe.
Sisters Angie Baeten, Patrice Williams, and V’Asiah Joseph moved to Winter Haven ten years ago. The two older sisters, Angie and Patrice, were born in the Bahamas. The family came to south Florida when Angie and Patrice were 5 and 4 respectively. From there, they moved to Orlando where V’Asiah, the baby of six siblings was born, and have been in central Florida since. Both of the older sisters’ husbands are from Polk County. Looking for a place to settle down, Winter Haven seemed to be the best fit. The story of their mobile coffee shop begins during a devastating time in their lives. In October of 2017, their mother passed away from ovarian cancer. She left money to each of the six siblings. “We decided that we would use some of the money to open up a business together. We didn’t know what, but we wanted to do more with it and do it in honor of her,” said Patrice.
The siblings found ways to stay cohesive after their mother passed. They would make time to go thrifting together and every Thursday night all six and their spouses would meet up at Grove Roots. One night at Grove Roots, one of them spotted a little white vacant building across the street. “It was so tiny, and we thought that would be the cutest little coffee shop,” said Patrice. They could envision the whole thing from serving coffee and treats to hosting open mic nights. They even came up with a name for this dream coffee shop – Amonie Jo’s, in honor of their mother, Amonie Joseph. The sisters called to find out how much it would be to rent the space and it wasn’t feasible for them at the time. But their coffee shop dream wasn’t finished with them yet.
“We were at a thrift store on 42nd Street and saw the bus out back,” said Angie. Patrice excitedly pitched it to her sisters. “This is Amonie Jo’s!” she said. The bus was already gutted, and she could picture an adorable coffee shop with a seating area for their guests. Patrice asked the owner if the bus was for sale. It was, and it worked! It took between six and seven months of hard work and the help of family and friends to finish the interior. They picked out cabinets, repaired leaks, and filled out paperwork to get their coffee shop off the ground. “We were very adamant about being a Winter Haven business,” said Patrice. The sisters believed so strongly in the love and family of the Winter Haven community, they wanted to do their part to add to the social scene of the eclectic, ever-growing city. After the bus was completed, it took another six months to complete all the paperwork and requirements to open for business. Their relatively unique concept of a food truck that patrons could come into, made the red tape a bit stickier. They stayed diligent, one of the many characteristics they learned from their mom, and Amonie Jo’s International Coffee & Delights was born.
Nescafe for the Neighbors
Speaking barely any English, their grandmother, whom they called Mami, moved from Haiti to the Bahamas. Even with a divide in dialect, she connected with many on the island. “She would invite neighbors, strangers, whomever to give them a cup of coffee,” remembered Patrice. “It was instant, by the way,” Angie said about the coffee, and all the girls smiled. Their grandmother became one of the most popular people in Nassau. “Everyone knew my grandmother and it was because she would offer them a cup of coffee,” said Patrice.
The women explained that their Mami wasn’t rich, her house was small. But, every morning she would open all of her doors, make Nescafe instant coffee, sit down, and wait. Like clockwork the community poured in, to be poured a cup of coffee. They would fill up their cup for work and head out, some would stay and visit or watch movies with her. She didn’t need to speak the same language, she knew what she was giving them and they knew what they were receiving from her – a cup of coffee, friendship, a listening ear, a connection. Patrice said, “We saw how a cup of coffee could be transferred over to love – something as simple as that.”
“And they really did love that lady,” said Angie.
I’m Proud of You
The three sisters felt that same island community and love here in Winter Haven. Even before their business, the family felt embraced immediately by locals. Patrice who loves going to downtown events like Beer Crawl and Wine Walk says she loves seeing all the same people there. “I just know that these people like each other and they’re all really close,” she said. Angie added, “Coming from the Bahamas, it’s so small. That’s what Winter Haven reminds me of. […] It has that same feel of family where people know each other from childhood.”
Though their business is still in its infancy, opening on January 7th of this year, Angie said, “We’ve already crossed paths with so many people that we genuinely feel like they like us, we like them, and we feel like a part of that family.” The bright spirits of the women have attracted swaths of support. Other mothers who stop in for a cup of coffee or see the trio around town will tell them, “I’m proud of you.” Angie says she sees that as a reminder from God that if their mother were here, she would be so proud of them. “I feel like the women circle around us,” said Angie. “They want to see us succeed – they’re telling us different ways to do things, they’re giving us ideas, they’re feeding us, they’re not holding anything back from us.”
Help Along the Way
The women of Amonie Jo’s have worked hard, but are hasty to express, “We did not do this on our own, we are not here by ourselves.” There are a few special people that have helped them along the way.
The first person that prepared them for life, womanhood, and entrepreneurship was their Mummy as they called her, Amonie. Amonie always worked in the hospitality business, taking up side businesses in home interior design, Avon, and Mary Kay. In each role she played, Amonie showed her children the shining example of customer service, presentation of yourself, your house, and your business, the quality of your product and using it yourself, professionalism, hard work, and cleanliness. They learned from their mother that there are no excuses, you can always find a way. When they lived in Miami and they didn’t have a car, Amonie would catch the city bus to make it to Mary Kay meetings. “Even though she passed away before she could see any of this,” said Patrice of her mother, “I feel like she gave us the biggest push.”
The women looked to their mother’s memory when they had a hard time finding a permanent place to park the bus for business. Patrice and V’Asiah traveled up and down Cypress Gardens Blvd., First Street, and US 17 asking businesses if they could park outside. Serendipitously, Ann McCollough from Party Rentals Unlimited, just a block outside of downtown where they wanted to be all along, invited them to park at her store. McCollough, isn’t afraid to ask the sisters questions and hold them accountable. She says what she means, exactly how their mother would and that gives them the motivation to be the best they can be.
The sisters expressed gratitude to Christy Hemenway for always being there for them. “She came on from day one and just expressed how proud she was,” said Angie. She gives them advice both in business and in life. She and her family saw Patrice and her husband Shane through the impossibly tough time of losing their daughter. “You would think that we really were her daughters,” said Patrice.
Lisbeth Pacheco from Ethos Roasters was also on their list of special people. They were new to the coffee business and Lisbeth helped them with the basics like which grinder to buy, what grinder to use with which coffee, oxidation of the beans, and why it’s important to have a fresh roaster.
Their faith has been instrumental in pushing them forward as well. The sisters said, “We believe that our business or success would not be possible if it wasn’t for our faith our loving Father Jehovah who continues to provide for us in good times and bad. We truly believe in the words found at Matthew 6:33, “Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all other things will be added to you.”
Organic and International
In 2015, their mother was diagnosed with and beat cancer within months. She was on an all organic, raw food diet and was seeing a natural doctor. “We saw her go through the process, we saw her body get clean, we saw her get better all off an organic, raw diet,” said Patrice. This inspired them to only serve organic drinks in their shop. Ethos Roasters in Lakeland was recommended to them to supply organic coffee. The three say meeting and working with Lisbeth has been amazing and taught them a lot. “The fact that you can come onto the bus and have something from a different country was important to us,” said Patrice. The pastries at Amonie Jo’s are from a Mexican bakery in Haines City that makes them fresh.
From the outside, owning a business with siblings might seem tough, but the Amonie Jo’s girls make it work. Each of their personalities lends itself to the business. All major decisions are made together and they all wear many hats, but each sister has their niche within the coffee shop. You’ll likely find Angie taking orders and chatting it up with the customers. An open book, Angie describes herself as a free-spirit with a little bit of complex and crazy. “My core is love, family, [and] positivity,” she said. She has this uninhibited confidence. She spoke about herself, her family and their business freely. Angie is wonderfully and unapologetically, Angie.
Cooking and manning their social media is Patrice. Patrice is only a year younger than Angie, saying, “We don’t know life without each other.” Though they’ll both tell you they are polar opposites. She is the family organizer, always hosting gatherings for family functions. “I love feeding people – I like to make them feel very at home and comfortable,” she said. More of a shy and reserved person, Patrice is the calm, cool, and collected one of the bunch. She is the advice giver – though they don’t always listen to her. “She’s thoughtful too,” added one of the sisters. Thoughtful, determined, and genuine were all words thrown out to describe the middle sister.
The youngest and quietest of the three, V’Asiah, is Amonie Jo’s main barista. The twenty-year-old sat quietly, but attentively as her sisters talked about the business. Don’t let her quiet manner fool you, this woman has a good head on her shoulders and could be described as an old soul who’s young at heart. She finished EMT school last year and wants to go back to school to be a Paramedic. “My mom always called me her nurse,” she said. “I want her to know that I finished it because she always told me to go to school and finish school.” Her sisters said that she keeps a level head in any situation, with Angie saying, “She’s a perfectionist just like my mom. She gets things done.” She graduated high school with her associate degree and a 4.3 GPA all while caring for her mother at night.
She is described as strong, determined, and smart for taking the advice she’s given. Patrice called her a smart decision maker, saying, “Everything she does, you would think that it was on some five-year plan.”
One day, Winter Haven may see a brick and mortar Amonie Jo’s Coffee House. The words, “Mummy’s House” will grace the entrance with six separate dining spaces each representing one of the siblings. Patrice said, “The whole thing would still be a coffee shop though, we’re not going to open up some big restaurant. Same breakfast, pastries, coffees, teas, and lemonades but it would be Amonie Jo’s Coffee House. It’ll feel like how we grew up in our Mummy’s house with all the siblings being there.” The sisters are confident they can execute this and see it as a five-year goal.
Through these community connections, Amonie Jo’s has booked corporate events at State Farm, Legoland, and CenterState Bank. “Our business has thrived off community and people wanting to see us win,” said Angie. “Even if it’s just a ‘We’re so proud of you,’ or buying a cup of coffee or telling their friends about us – the sense of community and people, [...] it’s just been beautiful, it’s been amazing, it’s been fun...it’s blown our minds,” said Patrice.
Everyone from the mayor to Dan Chesnika from Theatre Winter Haven and his family have been in their corner. “We move forward with people. We’re not here because of us,” said Angie. The sisters bought the bus only a month after their mother passed away and worked nonstop for the next year to get it going – something they consider to be a blessing. “Besides the community helping us out businesswise they’ve helped us in life and they’ve helped us heal. We did it all very soon, we didn’t give ourselves time to heal,” said Patrice. “We’ve cried, we have grieved and gone through that process and we still are, but we’re doing it with a community – that’s a gift.”
Amonie Jo’s International Coffee & Delights
Look for them at Party Rentals Unlimited again in the Fall
and follow their social media to see where they will be.
118 Ave A SE, Winter Haven, FL 33880
FB: Amonie Jo’s Coffee