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People of Axum: Rachel Bohner

When David asked Rachel out on their first date in July 2015, the location he chose to take her was a no-brainer. They sat down at Axum’s Plant Street location that day and talked for hours over coffee. Rachel remembers being moved by his attentiveness, how carefully he carried her coffee for her and pulled out her chair. David was struck by how confident she was and how quickly she set him at ease.

That was just the beginning of their story—with one another and with Axum.

Winter Garden’s Own Central Perk

Rachel is a West Orlando native, and David has lived here for the past 13 years. They have watched the area grow in enormous ways, including the downtown area where Axum Coffee opened in 2010. Both passionate about supporting small businesses and especially cornerstone community organizations, they became regulars at the coffeehouse independently before ever meeting.

“My parents own a small business. We love coffee, and Axum really is just an ideal place for us,” says Rachel.

“Axum has such a great dynamic. They are a part of our community, along with several other businesses down there. It wouldn’t be Winter Garden without Axum,” adds David. “It’s our Central Perk!”

Both credit part of Axum’s success to the charm and uniqueness of the cafe, while also noting that lot of people are drawn to the fact that Axum gives back so much to the community.

Their affinity for Axum’s coffee and frequency of visits deepened their friendship with the company’s owners, Renaut and Brooke van der Riet, whom they credit as inspiring everything that Axum is: the relaxing, safe, “crazy friendly” and homey atmosphere at the coffeehouses and kiosks. When David was ready to propose to Rachel, he went to Renaut to ask for permission to plan his surprise at Axum, the spot where their relationship both began and deepened. Renaut’s response? “Yes, and if you’re going to do this, let’s make it epic.”

With the coffee shop decorated in hanging snowflakes that were hand-made by his mom and sisters, David proposed to Rachel on a crisp November 2015 night in a closed, private Axum all to themselves. Unbeknownst to Rachel, their families and close friends were hiding in the back of the café. When she said yes, the couple was instantly surrounded by loved ones. It was a moment to remember.

Since then, they have marked every significant milestone and occasion at Axum Coffee. On their wedding day, they stopped in on their way from the ceremony to the reception to get a cup of coffee and take some pictures there. The photo shoots for both pregnancy announcements for their girls happened in the back part of the café. It has even become a tradition to swing by on the way home from the hospital with their newborn littles.

“Since we announced the pregnancies at Axum, it was a perfect place to commemorate welcoming home our new baby. Plus, newborn parents need all the caffeine they can get! Since newborn babies always attract a lot of attention, we got to tell our Axum story each time,” remembers Rachel.

They have seen other people and couples over the years who have brought Axum into their own stories as well, from birthday celebrations to baby and bridal showers, job interviews, engagements, and even another bride in her wedding dress. David and Rachel beam when talking about the community they see thriving all around them, thanks in part to the space Axum has made for people to gather together.

That’s also why when it came time to buy their first home, the fact that it was only one mile from downtown Winter Garden and Axum, “made the house perfect for us,” says David. David and Rachel make the short trek from their family home to Axum as frequently as possible. “We often see the same people there: the other regulars, the baristas who know you and know your order,” Rachel says. “Everyone there seems to be there on purpose. It’s like everyone’s living room, if that makes sense. A purposeful place.” Spending time there, now with their girls, is like spending time with extended family for them.

“And their coffee is the best. I can’t drink any other coffee now,” she adds with a glimmering laugh.

Coffee Shop or Home Away From Home?

Next on the agenda for the Bohners and Axum? David will start studying to be a physician assistant in a few weeks from the time of our interview. Of course, they plan to take his first-day-of-school picture at Axum with his stethoscope hanging around his neck, because they both know that first day will require Axum coffee.

They also remembered that hurricane season is around the corner, which means they’ll need to make sure their hurricane kit is restocked with Axum coffee. If any storms happen to come through this year, they will prepare by making their their “pre-hunker-down” ritual visit to Axum to have their last in-store “hurricane coffees” before they shut themselves at home.

When asked what word sums up how Axum makes them feel, David and Rachel responded in unison: warm. Both said Axum feels like being in someone’s home, a welcome, shared space where you belong.

“I think the ‘living room’ feeling to me means that it’s a place where people have both little, everyday moments and significant, life-changing moments,” concludes Rachel.

We couldn’t agree more.

Their favorite order is the same: a heavenly toffee latte and blueberry or white chocolate raspberry scone.

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