As you walk through the doors of the Golden Roast espresso café, you're met with sunshine spilling in from the windows, a sweet, captivating cappuccino aroma filling the room and a smile.
This coffee shop atmosphere was something Knoxville was missing – that is until store owner, Alan Zeigel, moved to Knoxville.
"One of the reasons we started the store is: coming from Boulder, (Colo.,) there were 22 coffee shops in Boulder at that time. Boulder is a third the size of Knoxville, and there were two coffee shops in Knoxville," Zeigel said. "We thought it would be a good business to get into and about time for the trend to get here."
And nearly 19 years later, that trend is still thriving here on Rocky Top.
But a soothing atmosphere isn't the only trend Zeigel has started.
Zeigel roasts his own coffee to give the Golden Roast its own signature taste.
"I've been roasting for 14 years," Zeigel said. "It's a small, antique roaster I found at a real good deal just to roast coffee for the store. I started doing that and all the sudden other people started asking me to roast coffee for them, so now I roast coffee for about 12 different places around Knoxville.
"Most don't (roast their own coffee). There are coffee shops that get into roasting, but not in Knoxville."
Not only does the shop have its own original flavor, but it also has a unique flair of students who come for the coffee, to study or simply relax.
Anne Ramsey, sophomore nursing major, said the atmosphere is the biggest draw.
"It's comfy and cozy here," Ramsey said. "It's kind of like a home. They give you personal mugs – it's not like Starbucks where they just give you the little plastic cups."
This comfortable atmosphere isn't just ideal for a great cup of coffee, but patrons say it's also the perfect place to study, which seems to be a trend at the Golden Roast.
"I get a lot of students in here that would rather study in here than in the library because they can concentrate better," Zeigel said.
Like many other students spread throughout the shop, Ramsey agrees that the tiny bistro is the perfect setting for a study session with friends and the occasional cup of coffee.
"I usually just study, but I also get coffee," Ramsey said. "It's a nice reward ... and they play good music."
From chatting over a delicious latte to diligently working on that essay due Friday, Ziegel said the Golden Roast is the perfect place to kick back and take time away from the hustle of college life – and that's exactly how he intends to keep it.
"That's what this place is all about," Zeigel said. "They call coffee shops a third place – it's not home, it's not work, (but) it's a place you can go and converse and relax and be comfortable."
The Golden Roast is located on Melrose Place and is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight, and weekends, 8 a.m. to midnight.