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‘Perk & Brew’ brings neighborhood coffee house ambiance

By Staff | Nov 20, 2015

Sara Tracey (owner), along with her daughter Addisyn, and Theresa Knazek (owner) had their grand opening of Perk & Brew eariler this month. Perk & Brew is at 1021 Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral.

There’s always that glue which is needed to bond a community together and usually it is a spot where people can meet, converse and relax.

That’s exactly what new business owners Sara Tracey and Theresa Knazek want to provide with Perk & Brew, at 1021 Cape Coral Parkway East in Cape Coral and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Saturday, and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Perk & Brew brings the environment every neighborhood coffee house can offer, along with homemade food, fresh-roasted coffee and tea, along with a quality selection of beer and wine.

“We want this to be a place people can hangout and relax,” Knazek said.

“We like being part of a community, it’s what we are used to being in,” Tracey added.

Perk & Brew’s owners took similar paths to eventually owning their first business together, despite each growing up on opposite sides of the world, where they would eventually meet and become close friends as employees of TGIF in Fort Myers.

Knazek hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where she started first working in a mom and pop breakfast “joint” at the ripe old age of 11 years old.

“The owners, who were immigrants from Hungary, thought I was 14 years old, but I was really 11,” Knazek said. “I cleaned dishes, tables, peeled potatoes and took out the garbage, while getting yelled at constantly by them.”

The hospitality food business stuck with Knazek, as she continued her journey through the field by working in pizza and Mexican food places, then started work in the food chain industry at Red Robin and eventually to TGIF.

Preparing food, though, started even before her first job as an 11-year-old in Cleveland.

“My mom always baked and cooked, as did my grandmother, and when they baked, I was always a part of it,” Knazek said. “I’ve never been without a job since I was 11 and it’s mostly always been in a food business.”

Tracey’s path started on the other side of the globe in Melbourne, Australia, where she grew up enjoying the fabulous coffee shops of the city until the age of 22 when she moved to the United States to teach and coach gymnastics.

“I grew up around these amazing cafes on every street corner, which all served great food,” Tracey said. “You would go from one coffee shop to another enjoying their great-tasting coffee and pastries.”

Tracey eventually moved to Florida with her young daughter, Addisyn, and took a job at TGIF, where she managed much of the business side, while Knazek was the front manager.

There, they honed their food industry business sense, but most importantly built on their cooking and baking talents, while building an impeccable strong work ethic – which in small business ownership, is a necessity.

When the decision was made to go out on their own, the Perk & Brew location on Cape Coral Parkway was exactly what they were seeking, which was smack dab in a neighborhood community environment.

Being the only two workers in the shop, along with help from some good friends as volunteers, the high-energy duo are off to a great start digging their roots into the Cape Coral community fabric.

“We thrive on a high, fast-paced working environment,” Knazek said. “Quality is the most important thing for us here, we want to be known for that. That’s why we make everything here ourselves and that’s where the quality comes in.”

Everything is homemade, including the equipment. When Tracey and Knazek starting stocking their kitchen, it was all from their own homes.

But once the transfers were made, it was time to prove what they learned from all their years in the food industry.

The morning hours are the busiest at Perk & Brew and coffee drinkers who want a full tummy as they head off to face the day are not disappointed.

The huge breakfast sandwich is a Perk & Brew staple. It’s made with two eggs, smothered in cheese and heaped with the choice of meat, and is served with tots.

The hand-picked and locally roasted coffee beans, which are also from all over the world, goes well with the dish.

“We are also known for our breadbowls,” Knazek said. “Our meatball (breadbowl) is our signature item, but the chili breadbowl is also popular.”

And if a customer loves what they just had, they will need to come back to Perk & Brew, because that taste will not be had anywhere else.

“Everything we make, is ours,” Knazek added. “I use the same chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve used since I was a kid. The chili we make comes from my recipe book. We have always baked and that’s why we make everything here ourselves.”

The quality customer service from the two energetic women does not go unnoticed by the regulars, either, who have also been appreciating the homemade food they serve.

“They are new and adding something to our community,” said Cape Coral resident and Perk & Brew regular Sandy Magyar.

Her husband, Mark, agreed that the top-notch service and comfy environment brings in repeat customers, who eventually become full-time patrons.

“We come in every morning with the other older fellas and have our coffee,” Mark Magyar said. “We need good coffee to start our day and these two (Tracey and Knazek) are doing a great job.”

But when the morning and afternoon hours pass by, Perk & Brew also is a relaxed place to sit work-weary bones and enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine.

“All of our craft beer is handpicked, as well is our wine,” Tracey said. “We truly believe we will get repeat customers, too. Everyone has been so kind to us, which has been very sweet.

“I am so grateful to be in such a great partnership with Theresa. We have always worked well together and we are perfect together now.”

It’s that appreciation and love which one can expect to go into whatever they want to order – albeit a coffee, beer or wine to go along with their heaping serving of a meatball breadbowl.

Perk & Brew will want you coming back for more, just like a community meeting hangout should be.