Charlie’s Coffee Co. Captivates the Shoals

Samantha Vise, Volunteer Writer

Charlie’s Coffee Co. has kept the people of Tuscumbia buzzing– and not just from the coffee. This coffee shop, located on Main Street in Tuscumbia, opened it’s doors on December 13, 2021. Business has been booming since opening, according to Brianna Milby, the store owner.

“It’s amazing to watch it grow and to see all of the people come in. You’ve got the regulars, and it’s amazing to get to know who they are and what makes them them,” said Milby regarding the growth of Charlie’s Coffee Co. since its opening. 

Milby had always dreamed of opening her own coffee shop, but the corporate competition in her hometown of Seattle made that difficult, and she craved the feeling of a small town. Milby moved to Tuscumbia in the spring of 2021 with hopes of bringing some big-city ideas to this small community. 

“I noticed that there was an outreach for people that needed help, and I wanted to be able to help them,” said Milby. Her main goal in opening the store was to provide a place where people could go to feel seen and be a part of the community. Milby also wanted to encourage young girls and prove that women belong in the business world.

Graduating high school at the young age of 16, Milby has been in the corporate world longer than most her age. Being a young woman in the corporate workplace was taxing for Milby, but it taught her the management skills she needed and opened the gateway for Charlie’s Coffee Co.

“I got into the corporate world very young in life. It was hard being 17 and 18 years old running with the big dogs in those corporate offices and making those corporate decisions. My manager never empowered me to be anything more, and it felt like she didn’t care about me. I was miserable– I felt like I didn’t I have a way out,” Milby said of her past work endeavors.

After she finally escaped that toxic environment, Milby knew her purpose was to open a business based on kindness and community. She experienced first hand how poorly the corporate world treated young women, and she wanted to open a woman-lead business that empowered young girls to be their authentic selves. 

“I came from a horrible manager and employee situation. If I can just help one younger person and be that impressionable rolemodel to show them that they can do it, and that they can work outside the status quo– that’s really what I try to do with my staff and my customers. I want to empower them,” Milby said. 

Milby opened Charlie’s Coffee Co. at just 22, and she’s had plenty of people try to set her back. “It’s hard being a young person in the business world, but it’s very rewarding. I was 16 when I got my first ‘big girl’ job. I saw a lot of high-up people, and I had to sit in board rooms and meetings with people who didn’t respect me as a 17 year old. I think that working such a tough job and running with the big dogs for so long empowered me to believe that I can do it,” Milby said. One of the biggest problems that she faces as a young, female storeowner is people not taking her seriously, but Milby doesn’t let that stop her. 

The message behind the store and its friendly staff set Charlie’s Coffee Co. aside from typical,  run of the mill coffee shops. Milby ensures that her baristas are trained not only to make coffee, but to make connections with customers and provide a genuine, positive experience. She wants her shop to be a place where anyone can come to feel welcome and seen.

“I always strive to empower the young girls we have in here to be a better person, and encourage them to be a powerhouse in the business world if that’s where they want to go. Go into the business world, you can be young, you can do it as woman– that is your place and you don’t need to keep getting shut down. If I can help and give any leadership, I want to do as much as I can,” Milby said.

She believes a person’s favorite coffee shop is like their second home, and Milby wants to make her store feel as much like home as possible. The shop is named after Charlie, Milby’s rescue dog and service animal. The store logo is Charlie himself, and the menu features puppiccinos and other treats that incorporate Milby’s love for dogs. 

The drink menu is split between coffees and energy drinks, some made with redbull and others made with a plant based energy called lotus. 

“In Washington, our version of lotus is with redbulls. It’s the same concept of a tea bomb, except with redbull,” Milby explained. She wanted to bring a little touch of Seattle with her, and Milby said the energy drinks have been a bestseller. 

The rest of the space is rented out by Mary Margaret, a pharmicist that specializes in organic herb healing. She opened her own skincare line, Pharmhouse Medicine, that is based on natural alternatives to western medicine. All of her products and handmade artwork are for sale within Charlie’s Coffee Co., as well as items made by other locals. “We want to fill our shelves with all local people– that is something that we really stress. Everything that we do here is all supported by local people, from our cups to our stickers to our first responder board. Everything that we do supports local people,” Milby said. 

Her hometown, Seattle, is more corporate based, and Milby wanted to move somewhere that highlighted local businesses. Tuscumbia provided the tight knit community of locals that Milby was searching for, and Charlie’s Coffee Co. fit right in.