Cafe Society

Stella's Coffeehaus is the perfect complement to South Pearl restaurants

When Stan Geels opened Stella's Coffeehaus in the front room of a Pearl Street bungalow in 1991, some of his neighbors told him that the place wouldn't last six months. "It was a boom-and-bust street," Geels remembers. "But I liked the neighborhood, so I didn't hesitate. When we opened, I think we sold a cup of coffee every hour or two."

He persisted, though, "mostly on prayer," and after a few years, the street started changing. A major reason for that change? The ongoing investment of Toshi and Yasu Kizaki in the neighborhood, including moving Sushi Den from the spot now occupied by India's Pearl to its current location the same year Stella's opened. "They have done so much for the neighborhood," Geels says. "They're some of the hardest-working guys I know."

Geels originally envisioned his coffeehouse as a community gathering spot, a place where people could come and work in peace — something he had trouble finding when he was in sales and always looking for a good spot to catch up between calls on clients. And twenty years later, Stella's is just that.

The coffeehouse, which, like Sushi Den, has expanded and now spans several eclectic rooms in the house, is almost always packed; students and telecommuters share mismatched tables in the quiet nooks during the day, couples and friends catch live music acts and chat on the front porch at night. They sip coffee from local roaster Pablo's, eat dessert and breakfast burritos purchased from local vendors, and peruse art from all over the world.

"It's a coffee klatch," Geels says. "Which means you look for the best that you can find of everything and bring it to your location, and you make all the drinks."

I've frequented the place since I was a student, but even now that I'm free of homework, I find myself gravitating back toward it every time I'm in the neighborhood for dinner, stopping by to order a cappuccino or one of the blooming teas.

Today, Pearl Street is rife with restaurants, and Stella's is a perfect complement: an immensely pleasant place to have one final, non-alcoholic drink.