Merie Cobb Mirosavich is as homegrown in Columbia as the beans she uses to brew specialty coffees in her Cool Beans coffeehouse and College Grounds Cafe.
Mirosavich worked at Cool Beans Coffee Co., located on the top floor of an old house on College Street, while in business school at USC. She bought the coffeehouse after graduating and, a few years later, purchased the sandwich shop business downstairs.
Popular and successful, her businesses share a site near the historic heart of the University of South Carolina campus across from the Horseshoe.
The two-story, red brick building that houses the two businesses is characteristic of the college neighborhood surrounding the Horseshoe.
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Its interior – quaint and comfortable – offers just the kind of welcoming environment to enjoy a cup of coffee. Mirosavich, a hardworking, married mother of three, is right at home there.
“I’m just a Columbia girl,” Mirosavich says. “I was a really good student, I loved school and I loved learning, but I love Columbia. I have never really been drawn to move away from Columbia.”
When Mirosavich graduated from Richland Northeast High School in 1994, the only college she applied to was USC. She graduated from USC with honors in 1999. Mirosavich grew up in Forest Acres, and still lives there.
While attending USC, Mirosavich got a job at Court Yard Coffeehouse in West Columbia.
Mirosavich’s boss at Court Yard Coffeehouse, Jason Shreve, subsequently purchased another coffee house, on College Street in Columbia. Many of the staff, including Mirosavich, transferred there.
“Kitty” Mirosavich, as she is known to friends, moved to the new business as a faithful, dedicated, worker, Shreve said. He had already noticed her work ethic, he said. Shreve asked her to be the manager at the new coffeehouse and told her if she ever wanted to buy the place, to let him know.
When Shreve purchased the College Street business from its previous owner in 1998, the coffee house was called Cafe Espresso and the downstairs restaurant was called Nice ’n Natural.
Under Mirosavich’s management, the place thrived.
“The heartbeat of that place has long been downtown Columbia and the university,” said Shreve, now a resident of Louisville, Ky. “It had a built-in audience, it earned a following, and it’s kept a following for years.”
After Shreve purchased the College Street business, his father in southern Indiana developed brain cancer, he said.
“The whole time I was traveling back and forth between southern Indiana and South Carolina, Kitty, she just faithfully watched after that place.
“I never could have gone back and forth to see my dad all those months without her really helping out,” Shreve said.
Wanting to get back near his family on a long-term basis, Shreve offered to sell Cool Beans to Mirosavich, and she agreed.
However, not many years out of college at the time, Mirosavich, now 39, had to save money for four years to get a loan to buy Cool Beans Coffee Co., she said.
The time was well-served, though, Mirosavich said, and by the time she bought the place, she had its operation and the required day-to-day business adjustments down pat.
With each visit, the building has the natural comfort of a return home, Mirosavich says.
College Grounds, a bakery and café, prepares breakfast sandwiches and brunch all day long, serves drip coffee on demand and prepares all the baked goods sold in the coffeehouse and café, including the pastries, muffins and bagels.
Even though she is the owner, Mirosavich works as hard as anybody, side by side with the employees, said Stephen Davies, assistant manager.
“All our bread is baked fresh everyday – we constantly change what is in the case for desserts, so every time you come in here there’ll be something new.”
The café makes fresh doughnuts every morning, usually two flavors, Davies said. And people say their grits are the best in town, he noted.
Cool Beans Coffee Co. offers a full line of espressos and specialty drinks, designer specialty drinks, pastries, sandwiches, salads and wraps. It is designed for efficient entry and egress, but suited for the unhurried, too.
Owning and operating both businesses gives Mirosavich more seating space, more kitchen space and an additional cash register. “If somebody wants a cup of coffee, they can come in quickly for a cup of coffee.”
Family also is important to Mirosavich. Her grandfather operated the Tasty Bake Shop on Forest Drive for 50 years. Her dad, Bill Cobb, is 77 and lives in Columbia. She has three older brothers, “all crazy hard workers,” a family trait, she said. Her mother, Carol, died when Mirosavich was 20 years old and she wishes she would have gotten the chance to take care of her mother in old age, she said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398
Merie “Kitty” Cobb Mirosavich
Education: Richland Northeast High School; USC Darla Moore School of Business (honor graduate), 1999.
Family: Husband, Jason; three children, Lillian, 9, Graham, 7, Nathan, 3.
Church: Grace Presbyterian, ARP; Crossings Community Presbyterian Church, ARP
Cool Beans Coffee Co.
Owner: Kitty Mirosavich
Purchased: 2004; employee since 1997
The fare: A full line of espressos and specialty drinks from cappuccinos to maple and caramel lattes; designer specialty drinks such as “A Perfect Man” (a double shot espresso with Irish Cream); smoothies and lemonades. Pastries, bagels, muffins, cookies, etc. Sandwiches, salads, wraps, paninis.
College Grounds Cafe
Owner: Kitty Mirosavich
The fare: A bakery and café, prepares breakfast sandwiches and brunch all day long, serves drip coffee on demand and prepares all the baked goods sold in the coffeehouse and café, including the pastries, muffins and bagels.