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Meet Jules Karagiannis & Tracy Calabro

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jules Karagiannis & Tracy Calabro.

Hi Jules & Tracy, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
We are Jules Karagiannis and Tracy Calabro, otherwise known by our maiden name as “The Fox Sisters”, We had a dream, a vision if you will, of opening a coffee shop for many years and did just that in September of 2018. Our primary goal is to provide a friendly, inviting and comfortable environment for anyone seeking a place to grab a cup on their way to work each day, sit and relax with a good friend or book, or even hold a business meeting. Our goal is to serve each and every customer with the friendliness of your best friend!

During the worldwide pandemic of 2020, we were presented with the opportunity to expand to the space next door in the same building. Our dream had grown bigger and we opened Sisters Sandwich Shoppe in April of 2021.

We are delighted to say that we were embraced by the neighborhood of Southampton in the South City area of St. Louis, Missouri and continue to make our guests feel comfortable and welcome, like family, every day.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When we opened the coffee shop, we basically took our vision and moved forward on a wing and a prayer. We found the perfect location in a neighborhood filled with families that enjoy being able to walk everywhere. We felt as though we were called to be in this spot.

We self-financed everything from buildout to equipment to product. We traveled out of town for training. We created what would become our Signature Lattes. We did a lot of research by visiting other local coffee shops and discovered what we wanted to try, as well as what we didn’t.

We already knew what we wanted the decor, the atmosphere, to look and feel like. We are proud to say that we have heard time and time again how homey and inviting our space is. Our dream was taking on a life of its own.

We faced some huge obstacles during the pandemic, however we learned to go with the flow and make things work, including closing for six weeks.

We learned many lessons during 2020, suffered some heartache, but took what we learned and were able to open our 2nd business. There are still many challenges but we feel much more confident about making our sandwich shop as successful as our coffee shop.

We were forced to take advantage of many grants and loans to take care of our employees and pay bills, however with the support from our family, friends and neighbors, we were even more determined to expand and offer the neighborhood a safe, happy place for breakfast and lunch.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Espresso Yourself Coffee & Cafe | Sisters Sandwich Shoppe?
Espresso Yourself Coffee & Cafe and Sisters Sandwich Shoppe were created for folks that feel strongly about supporting local and no longer wish to frequent the bigger corporate places.

We are located in a vibrant neighborhood comprised of other small businesses and residents who enjoy walking their dogs and enjoy family time. Our neighbors are adamant about supporting small, local, community-based establishments.

We believe strongly in giving back. We participate in the GiftAMeal program. We donate trivia nights and the like at surrounding schools. We host the Southampton Ladies book club monthly. We have a space in the coffee shop we call our Art Wall and each month a new local artist has the opportunity to display and sell their art. We also host local musicians on our patio.

One thing we are most proud of is that we are a women-owned and family-run establishments. Our team members are like family. We pride ourselves on always focusing on positive action and giving our team the opportunity to create and make suggestions that might help improve our environment.

To that point, we are known for providing our guests with the most welcoming, comfortable spaces to be themselves. At Espresso Yourself, we have fun creating new latte specials each season/month and often at the suggestion of a guest. We make our muffins and breakfast burritos in house. Other comfort foods such as the quiche, scones and cookies come from other small, local shops.

At Sisters Sandwich Shoppe, our sandwiches are classics that we have add the “Fox Sister” twist to and they all have fun, conversation starter worthy names such as the Celine Dijon (the chicken salad with a twist). The You Don’t Eat No Meat is our veggie sandwich, and the name pays homage to the movie Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The coffee shop feel is that of walking into your best friend’s home. Decorated with warm wood on the tables and counter, and then plenty kitschy objects on the walls. You can come in weekly and always find something new that catches your eye.

The sandwich shop is more like walking into your grandma’s kitchen. Formica tables with chairs of the same era, a wall lined with photos of TV shows we watched as kids (we call it the wall of people that raised us) and plenty of photos of ‘sister’ pictures of us along with our family photos.

What were you like growing up?
We are sisters, but we were not always the best of friends. We endured our share of family hardships. We grew closer as we got older and are now inseparable.

We were similar in our personalities when we were younger, both shy and insecure. Our interests seemed to be primarily growing our circle of friends and being social.

We both married fairly young and started families. Jules has been married 34 years with two grown daughters and Tracy 28 years with four grown children. At that stage of our lives, our interests were whatever our kids were interested in.

We were born and raised here in St. Louis, where we both still reside. We realized at this point in our lives we wanted to take a leap into the great unknown and bring something we felt was invaluable to our little part of the world. It was time to stop talking about it and take that leap of faith and we have not looked back.

Being in business with family can often be a struggle, however we know one another’s strengths and weaknesses and allow one another to excel in those capacities while sharing our knowledge to help the other grow in other areas as well.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Abbie Rudolph of Abbie Takes Pictures

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