Meet Coffee Brake Owner Stephanie

One crisp autumn day in 2005, a wide-eyed Mercyhurst College freshman named Stephanie Oliver showed up for her first day at a tiny student-run coffee shop situated in a quiet corner of the library. Like so many of her fellow students, Stephanie had applied for the work study program to make some extra cash while earning her degree. Unlike her more transient counterparts, however, she’d actually come to feel enlivened by this seemingly inconsequential side-gig...she liked working there.

For Stephanie, each shift at the coffee shop brought with it the opportunity to forge connections with both peers and staff, and a chance to make them smile. Not only was this fulfilling, but the inner-workings of the business itself intrigued her. She felt empowered by its challenges, not intimidated by them. All signs were pointing to the fact that something wonderful and rare had happened to a very young Stephanie: her dream had found her.

Alas, the roads to our dreams are not without detours. It would take Stephanie a few years in varying entrepreneurial endeavors—including running an event planning business of her own—before opening Coffee Brake in Evans City and a second location in Meeder. But make no mistake: these professional departures were far from pointless. With each new venture Stephanie pursued came a lesson that would eventually become an essential piece of Coffee Brake’s success. By owning her own event planning company, for example, she learned the extent of responsibility required for leadership...and by working with her father, an entrepreneur himself, Stephanie learned about balance. “[My Dad] worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” she explains, “but he only worked when he needed to, having the flexibility to come to our dance recitals and things like that. I knew that as I got older that was an important thing for me [to learn].”

This may very well be the explanation for the spelling and ethos of Coffee Brake, which asks its customers to take their foot off the pedal and come to a full stop before savoring their delicious pastries, breakfast sandwiches, or lattes. From the time guests enter the building, every single element of the space that Stephanie designed encourages them to pause—take a breath—and fully embrace the break they deserve. Because she truly believes they deserve it. With her careful attention to detail, it’s obvious how much Stephanie’s customers and their well-being mean to her. And for those who are creatures of habit, her exceptional staff have their orders ready by the time they reach the counter.

Stephanie knows how crucial it is for smaller communities to have places like Coffee Brake to connect. On why she choose to open a second location in Meeder, she said was thrilled to hear about Charter's dedication to creating communal spaces. “I was like— this is amazing. This is exactly the kind of atmosphere that I've wanted to cultivate,” she states.