The FMU community extends past the campus grounds to places like Soulé Cafe, a coffee shop in downtown Florence.
Several students and student organizations use Soulé as a place to study and a place for meetings. “The Patriot” staff also meets at Soulé to work on the newspaper or to relax.
Junior Angela Acosta, an economics major and photographer for “The Patriot,” said she enjoys the atmosphere at Soulé.
“One of my friends recommended that I come to work on some pictures and meet some other local artists,” Acosta said. “I love how chill it is here. You meet a lot of really cool people here and they have a lot of open mic nights and that’s where you find a lot of really interesting people.”
Senior Rita Abuaita, a healthcare administration major, said her cousin Rose pointed Soulé out to her.
“The atmosphere is just dope; it is just really chill and I love the artwork, it is just really different,” Abuaita said. “Soulé has a big impact on me because no one wants to stay at FMU all the time. The library gets old and Starbucks is just boring sometimes, and this place is just so different.”
Abuaita also shared her favorite drink from Soulé.
“Try the bubble tea,” Abuaita said. “That stuff is amazing. One sip can make your whole day better.”
Freshman John Odasco, a nursing major, said he frequently visits coffee shops to study and spend time with friends.
“I decided to visit Soulé because I’ve heard lots of positive reviews about them from people I know,” Odasco said. “I also wanted to branch out from the café shops I usually go to. My first impression was how aesthetically pleasing it was. That’s the first thing that popped into my mind – the environment, the artwork, and the vibe.”
Odasco said Soulé is a great place to spend time off-campus.
“FMU offers lots of places where students can do this; but, having a place to come to out of campus allows students outside of Florence to explore downtown,” Odasco said. “Soulé would be a great place to do schoolwork and chill with friends. If you want to try something new, something that’s distinctive from typical coffee shops like Starbucks, then Soulé is the way to go.”
Senior Jonas Smith, a health physics major, said Soulé is a good place to relax.
“I was bored one night, and I remembered that someone had told me there was an open mic night sort of thing that goes on every Wednesday,” Smith said. “The performances varied wildly, but everyone there was having a good time and it was a fun way to relax on a Wednesday night. I think it’s good to have places close by that students can go almost any day of the week to either study or enjoy some good music. Sometimes you need a change of scenery from the library.”
Ezra Brown, the owner of Soulé, said when he is making decisions about Soulé, he keeps college students in mind, not only from a business perspective but also because he wants to build a healthy community in Florence for the students to help them grow.
Brown said he likes being close to FMU and connecting with the students.
“You can see emerging stars and emerging leaders,” Brown said. “We get to see them grow and thrive, and it feels good to know that we may have a play in that. Students and the young professionals are the heartbeat of any city.”
“I believe Soulé is quite cutting edge because it’s about the people and it’s about the whole community,” Brown said. “It’s not just one person, so from our perspective its cutting edge in that aspect because it has a great community of artists that surround themselves around Soulé. Having amazing students in every aspect around us from many different places, especially from international countries, it keeps us fresh.”
Brown also said interacting with the different international students helps to grow the community.
“They ask us for things that we wouldn’t normally do like an Australian flat white, which is a lot different than an American flat white, and certain other drinks that we may not do or different ways of thinking of how to be even more inclusive,” Brown said. “I think that’s something this city needs as a whole, and you know Soulé, and we are learning. We are just trying to push this on a little more.”
Senior Dante Ahquin, an industrial engineering major, said Soulé is very open and accepting.