On a winter morning just before Christmas, a stream of customers line up at The Giddy Goat Coffee Roasters in Plaza Midwood to get their hands on a hot cup made with beans freshly roasted there in the store, a process that customers can see and smell before tasting the final product. Baristas serve up Giddy Goat’s signature empanadas as savory snacks.
Friends chat over steaming mugs, families play intense games of chess and Monopoly, and dogs mill about on the outdoor patio. Laptops and books lay open as dog owners sneak in some work between sips and paying attention to whatever their furry friends are up to. Regulars pause to chat with baristas as a few folks stop in to fuel up before a group bike ride.
It’s just the social atmosphere Giddy Goat owner Carson Clough envisioned when he opened this coffee shop in Charlotte, in the heart of Plaza Midwood, in summer 2020.
Inside the café, a mechanical roaster takes up the floor space in one large portion of the room. Another sample-size one-pound roaster stands in the middle of the café, and a large cold-brew tank sits along the opposite wall.
Having the typical back-of-house processes integrated into the café was an intentional design at The Giddy Goat. Clough and cofounder Rhyne Davis loved the idea of customers seeing the process in action, being able to ask the roasters questions and learning about the artistic intricacies of their drink.
Davis got the idea from a small café he visited in Cuba where, out of necessity of space, the roaster was located right next to the cash register. It was implemented out of convenience, but being able to taste the end product while hearing, seeing and smelling the beans roasting was an immersive experience for him.
It has helped cultivate the sense of community that has built up inside and outside the walls of The Giddy Goat since its opening. In fact, the team hasn’t had to rely on much advertising or social media marketing to build its base. With its welcoming feel and prime location for foot traffic, The Giddy Goat has made its own way by word-of-mouth and simply existing.
For Charlotte native Clough, landing on The Plaza was a dream come true.
“Plaza Midwood is very eclectic. I think it’s the coolest neighborhood in Charlotte … We were super lucky to find this location,” he tells Queen City Nerve. “I’m forever grateful that it’s just a fun place and the people are very social … We have some customers that have lived here for 35 years and saw Charlotte when it was not so big. It’s cool to hear those stories and see how they’ve watched Plaza change and Charlotte change.”
The evolution of The Giddy Goat
Clough and business partner Davis were inspired to open The Giddy Goat in Charlotte during a European trip together, during which they fell in love with the social aspect of overseas cafés that served as part coffee shop, part lounge, bar and community center.
Clough admits that, while the trip awakened his appreciation for coffee, he still didn’t know much about it at that point.
“It was an adventure I thought would be fun to take,” he says.
The name, as explained in a mural inside the shop, comes from the Ethiopian legend that credits the discovery of coffee to a goat herder named Kaldi who noticed that his goats would run and dance through the night after eating coffee beans.
The logo features a goat surfing on a coffee bean with a quirky smiling face, a reference to Clough’s love for surfing, which also ties into his passion for the environment and his desire to run a sustainable, environmentally friendly business.
“I surf a bunch, and I’m tired of seeing coffee lids in the ocean … The goal is to have a business that can keep the lights on without polluting or putting a lot of one-use plastics out there,” Clough said.
All of Giddy Goat’s to-go products are commercially compostable or recyclable, with the exception of the wax paper used for wrapping some items. Clough also works with a local composter to process their food waste and reuse it in the landscaping around the building.
Upon diving deeper into their new passion, the two began exploring ways to put their own take on coffee. They worked with employees and customers alike to create a space that is far from a generic Charlotte coffee shop, but more of a community staple and social force within the neighborhood.
Currently, Giddy Goat operates as a healthy mix between coffee shop, café and bar.
In the summer of 2021, Giddy Goat expanded into the upstairs portion of the building, creating the bar space and tapping into those European influences. Now, customers can order beer, specialty cocktails, Truly pops and more.
Like other expansions and ideas at The Giddy Goat, the advent of the now-signature empanadas was a grassroots suggestion that quickly turned into a staple.
Customer Tony Tognarelli connected with coffee roaster Enzo Pazos over their shared Argentinian roots. Tognarelli suggested they add something more savory to the food menu, then brought in dozens of empanadas for the team to try. They were devoured within minutes, and Tognarelli has been the in-house empanada master ever since.
The new upstairs space has been activated to serve as more than a bar, as well. Every Wednesday morning, the team moves all the furniture out of the way to host sunrise yoga with instructors from Habitual Roots. After the hour-long class, participants can chat and connect around a pot of coffee.
The weekly community event was started when customer and Habitual Roots co-founder Justin Ervin suggested the idea, and Clough ran with it.
What’s next in the new year
In 2022, Clough plans to include a space for the dogs who are mandated by state law to stay outside of his establishment due to the food menu.
Located behind the parking lot, the space will officially open as Calder Park in spring 2022. Complete with picnic tables, the dog park will be named for Clough’s golden retriever, a service dog who can often be found at Clough’s side at the Goat.
Many of the building materials for the small park are items that Clough rescued and reused from Plaza Midwood’s Thomas StrEATery, created in response to COVID-19 in 2020. The wooden pallets and picnic tables once used to offer nearby businesses and restaurants a space for temporary outdoor dining are now the fences and tables in Calder Park.
Also coming in 2022 is a redesigned space for The Giddy Goat’s human customers, with upgrades to the second-floor patio including a heated pergola so as to make the space comfortable year-round. Clough also wants to expand bar hours later into the night (it currently closes at 6 p.m.) while adding more regular events like Tango Tuesdays and karaoke.
In terms of coffee, Clough and Pazos are always learning more and refining their craft, so customers can expect new, creative roasts. He’ll be sending one of his employees to roasting school to start developing their own style and craft. He says the team has a healthy competitive spirit amongst them, always pushing each other to create even better coffee.
“We can have some internal competitiveness to keep the product top-notch,” Clough said.
The Giddy Goat is changing right alongside Charlotte, constantly ebbing and flowing in response to suggestions from their customers and teammates. In 35 years, grab a coffee from Clough and let him tell you about the time he started a staple neighborhood hangout spot in the heart of Plaza Midwood that did not just roast coffee, but became a force of its own.
SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.