By Jennifer Crossley Howard
Karma’s Coffee House is, as the motto goes, “where good people come for good coffee.” It is also where they come on a rainy late summer afternoon, to get a shot of caffeinated comfort to keep going after lunch.
The Cullman coffee shop, open since 2015, sits in a brick building on First Avenue northeast downtown. With its exposed brick walls, humble platform stage and large picture windows overlooking lonely railroad tracks, the environment beckons customers to sit and daydream. A record player spun a new John Mayer song while a tall bookshelf holding works by Joan Didion and Gabriel Garcia Marquez waited for readers to turn off their cellphones and just be.
There’s far more than coffee here. In fact, there are four kinds of chicken salad to suit every taste: Southern, Honey Pecan, Old-Fashioned and Buffalo. Old-Fashioned has crushed pineapple, grapes, almonds and celery.
“Honey Pecan and Buffalo are tied,” owner Katie Fine says, as far as local preferences.
The menu offers flatbread sandwiches as well as grape salad, homemade macaroni, protein bites, cookies, scones and sausage balls. House specialties include the Kurt Cobain, named after the late Nirvana singer. The coffee drink comes with chocolate and an extra shot of nut toffee. Bullet-proof coffee is still in high demand along with acai bowls, which Fine added this summer, that often sell out.
“Crazy enough, my husband suggested we do sausage balls, and they have become the most popular thing,” Fine says.
You can order a bottomless mug of coffee or stick with Fine’s recent choice, a fuss-free cup of strong, black brew. After indulging in specialty drinks for years, she had to go back to the basics.
“I really love the sweet stuff,” she says.
Where regulars are like family
Fine studied rehabilitation and disabilities at Auburn University and interned at United Way before deciding a desk job was not for her. Her fond memories of working at coffee houses and restaurants in Cullman inspired her to open Karma’s with a financial backer.
“Being around a coffee shop is not like anywhere else,” Fine says. “Your regulars kind of become family.”
Her business embraces warmth over the stark modernity in so many chains. Cushioned chairs and couches fill sitting areas instead of hard metal chairs, and there’s a children’s corner with chalk tables, books and toys. She painted the walls in pleasing jewel tones and works almost every day, fixing orders along with her employees. Fine has nine employees, an accountant, a social media employee and two kitchen workers.
“It’s more (work) than people think,” she says. “More often 12 hours than not.”
She uses local sources for her ingredients, including sausage from Fudge Family Farms in Madison and beans from Vienna Coffee Company in Maryville, Tenn.
Friends told Fine to name her shop after herself or use java in the name. She decided to go with a simple philosophy of doing good to others and then receiving like in return.
“I’m just a big fan of people, and I believe people should be nice to each other,” said Fine, who was leaving on a mission trip in a few days.
Karma’s Coffee House
103 1st Ave. NE Suite 140, Cullman, AL 35055
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday;
6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday;
6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday;
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday