Richard Tomasello, owner of local Auburn coffee shop Well Red, opened the storefront location off of Opelika Road with his wife, Crystal Tomasello, in June 2020. Richard, originally from Helena, Alabama, came to Auburn in 2000 to attend Auburn University.
Unlike most coffee shops, Well Red also functions as a bookstore during the day, and at night transitions into a wine bar. Richard also organizes book signings that take place periodically featuring local authors.
Richard and Crystal originally met at Pelham High School located in Pelham, Georgia. While Crystal was one grade ahead of Richard, the two maintained a friendship throughout high school. Crystal also attended Auburn University and the couple began dating her senior year.
When asked where the inspiration came from to open a coffee shop, Richard explained that it came from a place in Asheville, North Carolina, called Battery Park Book Exchange.
“I have always loved bookstores but independent bookstores have struggled over the last two decades due to Amazon and Books a Million,” Richard said.
When the couple saw the combination of coffee, books and wine, they knew for certain that they would be able to make this concept work in their own shop. Guests can find genres of every kind ranging from adventure to mystery all the way to character growth and the human struggle.
According to the Well Red website, instead of sticking with one type of coffee bean, Richard chooses to rotate roasters periodically. This rotation not only helps support other small businesses but also offers the chance for guests to explore different tastes of the common coffee bean.
According to Richard, opening up a small business during COVID was no small task. Well Red has put safety at top priority as the shop follows strict CDC guidelines. Both guests and employees are held to these guidelines to ensure safety.
“It has been difficult having to abide by all of the guidelines, but all-in-all, we are happy with the business,” Richard said.
Richard and Crystal said they share their love of treats by serving in-house pastries. Every day of the week Well Red’s pastry chef, Hannah Miles, bakes up sweet and savory items for guests to enjoy.
After picking up a latte and fresh treat, Well Red guests can take their pick of either indoor or outdoor seating. Guests are invited to come to the shop to enjoy a new novel, attend a wine tasting, work on homework or just chat with friends.
The wine tastings feature five wines from the Well Red bottle list. This variety allows guests to try a number of wines and become more comfortable committing to a bottle in the future Richard said. There are usually between 40-50 people at the tastings, but the tasting is self-paced so that not all of the guests are in attendance at once, he said.
There is no sign-up required to attend. Guests are free to stop in anytime between 5:30 and 8:00 p.m.
Emily Kayworth, barista at Well Red, enjoys building relationships with coworkers and guests as well as the “positive and encouraging environment” Well Red provides.
“They are amazing individuals who are all intentional with one another, it truly is one big family,” Kayworth said elaborating on the strong connection she feels with her co-workers.
With the transition of mostly online classes, Well Red has seen an increase in business as many students now come to work on assignments.
“Richard has created such a homey vibe about the building, whether that being cozy seating, string lights out back or the smell of freshly ground coffee, it is all about comfort,” Kayworth said.
On Thursday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m., Well Red will be hosting local businesswoman, Megan Smalley from Scarlet & Gold, as she signs her recently published book, “Give Grace.”
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Abigail Woods, magazine journalism, is the culture editor at The Auburn Plainsman.