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Photo by Dave Flessner / The Culture Coffee Co. opened this week across from the Hamilton County courthouse on Georgia Avenue

Tarek Forgani has helped start a number of custom rug, construction contracting, fashion retail and restaurant businesses since he moved to Chattanooga from Libya in 1980.

But he has always wanted to start a local coffee shop to offer a gathering spot for people of all cultures to come and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together.

"I'm kind of a "coffeeholic and I've always enjoyed roasting my own coffee at home and sharing coffee with others," Forgani said.

So when his wife decided to shut down the Off the Rack storefront across from the Hamilton County courthouse on Georgia Avenue during last year's pandemic after eight years of operation, Forgani and his daughter, Amber, decided to convert the storefront into a coffee shop.

The family has spent the past four months renovating the space for the opening Monday of the new Culture Coffee Co. at 610 Georgia Avenue, next to the former Jefferson's restaurant which also closed last year. The coffee shop is one of more than a dozen coffee outlets in Chattanooga's downtown. But Amber Forgani insists that Culture Coffee is unique and taps into the appeal of gathering over a cup of coffee or tea and sharing a pastry. Culture Coffee features coffees and pastries from around the globe. The pastries are prepared by B's Sweets and Poppytons Patisserie.

Soon the downtown shop will add sandwiches, salads, soups, breakfast burritos and other food items to its menu, she said.

"It's been my dream to have a coffee shop as a kind of melting pot where all cultures can come together in one place," Amber Forgani said. "Everybody loves coffee and we hope to have this as a meeting place where people can come and gather together over a drink, or food or special after-hours events we hope to soon offer."

Already, the walls of Culture Coffee are displaying and selling local artists' paintings.

Culture Coffee is now open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

"We plan to extend the hours to 10 p.m. once school is back in session and we also plan to open on Sunday in the future," Amber Forgani said. "We see a lot of opportunities and we're just getting started."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340

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