As one of Lakeland’s more recent additions to the coffee scene, Hillcrest Coffee has found a niche that truly sets it apart. We sat down with the proprietor of this charming café to learn what inspired this unique corner in the Dixieland Historic District.Brian Goding grew up in Miami and moved to Lakeland in 1977 (the summer just before 7th grade). His earliest memories of Lakeland included visiting his grandmother and getting to know the town where his mom was born and raised.
Goding has had a passion for music and the arts since an early age and loved the band program at Lakeland High School where he played the French horn. He stayed passionate about music and was a part of the marching band during his freshman year at the University of Florida, where he had the opportunity to play at the Superbowl 18 pregame show in Tampa.
After graduating, Goding lived in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area until marrying his wife in 1988 which brought him back to Lakeland.
His desire to open a coffee shop was sparked after being introduced to the coffee shop industry by his brother-in-law who owned a small coffee shop in South Lakeland back in 2002. At the time, Goding’s career was at its peak, and none of his three kids had gone off to college, therefore, he thought of this project as something he would pursue in the future.
Fast-forward to 2007-2008 when Goding took his two oldest sons on college visits throughout the Southeast.
“During our trip, I came across some really cool coffee shops and was inspired. I started putting together a list of things I would incorporate into a coffee shop. The first idea that came to mind was finding a way to make it a gathering place; I want anyone walking through the door to immediately feel welcomed. I then asked myself how do we achieve this, and what are the subtle elements that will help shape the experience?
“I thought to myself, if I can find an old building that has a porch, there is just something inviting
about porches. A building close to the main drag (South Florida Avenue here in Lakeland) but not on the main street; that might work.”
In 2017, Hillcrest Coffee opened its doors in a converted 1925 bungalow at the corner of South Missouri Avenue and Hillcrest Street.
“Part of the motivation here at Hillcrest is to provide a place where people can gather and showcase their artistic ability, even when they leave and come back ‘home’ to Lakeland.
“We want to be remembered as a place where people can hang out and everyone feels welcome no matter their age or social status. Whether you buy coffee or not, just come in and take a seat, have a conversation with someone you have never met, or take some time to just slow down.
“Hillcrest’s success will be defined by its ability to make enough money to keep the doors open, pay employees a living wage, and provide a place that people enjoy and want to come back to by providing a platform for them to do things they maybe couldn’t have done otherwise.”