Popsicle, coffee shop opening in St. Matthews firehouse

Steel City Pops and Quills Coffee are renovating a former fire station where they will operate. | Rendering by Architectural Artisans

Two retail businesses are joining forces to open a combination frozen pop and coffee shop.

Steel City Pops and Quills Coffee are renovating a former fire station at 117 St. Matthews Ave. near Westport Road. They will remain two separate entities but hope to complement each other.

“Go in there with a group of friends and family, and the kids can get a Popsicle, and mom and dad can get a cappuccino,” said Nathan Quillo, founder of Quills Coffee.

When Steel City Pops was first looking to move into town, founder Jim Watkins said the location was between the Highlands and St. Matthews.

“We’d been looking for a space in St. Matthews for a long time,” Watkins said. “The old fire station is one that we had our eye on, but it wasn’t available” at that time.

When the building finally came up for lease, he jumped on it, but the 4,800-square-foot space was too big for just Steel City Pops. Having enjoyed visits to Quills Coffee and liking the pairing of frozen pops and coffee, Watkins cold called Quillo to ask if he was interested in opening a coffee shop at the fire station.

“I’m thrilled,” Quillo said. “It was flattering that they thought highly of the brand.”

The two companies hired Jeff Rawlins with Architectural Artisans to draft plans that include separate counters for both businesses, plenty of gathering space and a large patio with landscaping. They are currently putting the renovation work out to bid and both Quillo and Watkins said they expect work to begin soon.

Owner Jim Watkins pictured with his wife, Amy, and their four sons. | Courtesy of Steel City Pops

While they will split the cost of shared spaces, each company will pay for its own specific needs, including their own point of sale systems. Watkins didn’t have final costs, but he estimated that the two companies together would invest more than $500,000 in the renovations.

“It is going to be a pretty sizable investment,” he said.

The joint Steel City Pops and Quills Coffee shop is expected to open this May — the same month that Quillo plans to open the Quills Coffee in NuLu.

The Quills Coffee shop in St. Matthews will employ a store manager as well as six to nine baristas. Steel City Pops will employ as many as 30 people during the summer at that location and will make the ice pops in an onsite kitchen, similar to its Bardstown Road store.

While the menu will be the same at both locations, Watkins said, the decision to co-locate with Quills Coffee will bring a whole new feel to the shop.

“The feel I think is going to be completely different than any store we’ve ever had,” he said. “I think it’s really even more of a destination.”

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly identified architect Jeff Rawlins.