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Serenity a nearby second home for some

By Ruelle Fludd | Lifestyles Editor
On June 8, 2019

Matthew, left, and Michael Nazareth, co-owners of Serenity Coffee and Kava shop on Railroad Avenue. 
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Nazareth

If you’re driving too fast on Railroad Avenue, you just might miss it.

Serenity Coffee and Kava shop, a quick drive from both FAMU and FSU, is owned by twin brothers Matthew and Michael Nazareth, 22. Serenity is a second home to college students, locals and even tourists.

This August will mark Serenity’s one-year anniversary, when the Nazareth brothers transitioned from partially owning Kavakaze on West Call Street to being business owners. The brothers initially worked most shifts from open to close almost every single day with little to no relief until business picked up to allow a payroll for employees.

Luckily for them, the brothers hired bartender Bethany Balanoff, 20, who also transitioned with them from Kavakaze to Serenity. Balanoff has witnessed first-hand the immense growth in business since last August and loves the new work environment. “It changed from me going my entire shift and only like my one friend would come and see me, to me making more tips than I’ve made in other bars I’ve worked at, like actual bars,” Balanoff said.

Balanoff said “actual bars” with intention; Serenity offers more than the typical coffee shop. As one of the few kava/kratom bars in Tallahassee, Serenity sells the two beverages that do more than just provide relaxing and focusing effects.

The Nazareth brothers swear by their kava and kratom products and credit part of their success to the teas. After their father passed, Matthew would focused on school, work and volunteering — his only relief being kratom. Disorganized thoughts, problems with anxiety and insecurities stemmed from comparisons to his social twin Michael would melt away with a single sip.

“It helped me become a confident person,” said Matthew. “It’s probably one of the best benefits of using kratom — it’s quality of life obtained through the benefits of sociability.”

The faith that the Nazareth brothers have in their product can be contagious. David Ryder, 23, has been hooked on Serenity since their grand opening and goes almost every single day. “I have a lot of problems with sleep so I drink kava,” said Ryder. “Kava and kratom have some of those beneficial qualities that make you feel good. Sleep, anxiety and sociability are the big three for me.”

Ryder goes to Serenity on a daily basis for more than his own benefit, his social group of kava and kratom drinkers fill the shop. Ryder said, “It’s definitely more of a hub, more of a community than anything else.”

“I’m friends with almost everybody there, friends with all the regulars. I’m always making new friends,” Ryder added. “The space that Serenity kind of lends itself to is cultural exchange. It’s meeting new people to be a part of a community.”

Matthew and Michael pride themselves on making Serenity more than a corner coffee shop. They endorse the idea of cultural exchange as their mission statement. Balanoff explained that the owners employed a local veteran to clean and do busy work to earn extra money. The twins recall a customer who was rehabilitated from opioid addiction at age 12 by simply drinking krater.“For the first time in his life, he was able to walk down this path to sobriety,” Michael said.

“Our business isn’t about getting value from our patrons,” Michael added. “Our business is about getting value back to the patron in the sense of quality of life. We have these products; we have this environment, but we also have this group of people who want to not only grow individually but grow as a community.”

On any given day, Matthew and Michael can be found behind the bar or socializing in the seating area. Serenity Coffee and Kava is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.

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