Julia Roberts, the New Testament and the Arlington community were all the inspiration Leo Baker needed to become a coffee roaster.
The native Jaxson opened Vantage Point Coffee Co. earlier this month in Arlington.
“A lot of my family has been entrepreneurs and had other small businesses and instilled that spirit of branching out on your own and providing great services to the community as well,” Baker said.
Vantage Point roasts its Brazilian and Colombian beans every Monday on the Eastside. Alongside its array of coffee products, it sells cold beverages and baked goods from Jacksonville-based Arble Baking Co.
Baker says it’s fundamental for Northeast Florida’s small businesses to establish business-to-business relationships here to keep dollars circulating through the Jacksonville economy.
Arble opened its first brick-and-mortar location in November 2022. Baker’s sister, Tia Anderson, is the wife of one of Arble’s co-owners.
Arble Baker Co. — named after the Arlington street where the Anderson family lived as children — leveraged its brick-and-mortar location, social media strategy, community ties and business-to-business connections to increase its sales.
Vantage Point expects to use a similar strategy. Leo Baker is a native Jaxson who graduated from Stanton College Prep. His wife, Jennifer, is also from here and a Sandalwood graduate.
Winter warmth and proximity to family brought Baker back to Jacksonville from Massachusetts in 2016. In 2021, Baker reached out to Columbia Ventures to inquire whether the company could roast its beans in a building adjacent to the Union Terminal Warehouse on the Eastside.
Its growth since the Eastside investment allowed Vantage Point to open its first brick-and-mortar location at the intersection of Monument and Lee. Vantage Point is joined by a menagerie of small businesses from a seafood restaurant, nail salon, barber shop, European market and pharmacy.
When the Union Terminal Warehouse opens — Columbia expects the project to wrap up in Summer 2024 — Vantage Point plans to open a second location Out East.
“We’re tremendously happy to partner with them on our second location,” Baker said. “It’s really instrumental to the neighborhood to providing jobs and uplifting the neighborhood.”
Vantage Point’s opening came at the conclusion of a week where multiple information sessions were held for businesses looking to work within the Jacksonville Small & Emerging Business framework — or JSEB.
Jacksonville Small & Emerging Business Administrator Gregory Grant says the city of Jacksonville plans to hold small business forums in each of the 14 City Council districts in 2024.
Grant said more than 150 businesses signed up to participate in the city’s Equal Business Opportunity Forum that was held Downtown on Nov. 16. He as well as city ombudsman Angie Dixon and council member Mike Gay — himself a small business owner — spent more than an hour answering questions and providing information to small businesses.
“We want to do less talking and do more listening to our small business community, so there is a unified approach between our small business community and city government,” Grant said.
Grant says the JSEB and Equal Business Office will have four focuses: education, community engagement, access to capital and information on contracting opportunities.
Vantage Point is in the process of completing its JSEB certification.
Anderson’s eyes watered at the thought of how much effort Baker and his wife have invested in launching Vantage Point.
“It’s just overwhelming gratitude for how far this idea has come,” Anderson said. “To see it from the initial ‘this is what I want to do’ to move it to a brick-and-mortar and see customers move in — I know from supporting Arble through its first year — how hard it is and the passion that has to be put in to make this happen.”
The name for the company arose from a weekend when Baker watched Roberts’ 2017 movie Wonder, then heard a word from the Rev. Tim Timberlake at Celebration Church. Both provided a message of seeing life from a different vantage point.
The space became available because the doctor’s office outgrew it and moved next door. Baker said Vantage Point began renovating the 1,700-square-foot store in January 2023. His plan is to hold paint and sip events, CPR classes and other gatherings to cultivate community in a shopping plaza that has multiple locally owned businesses.
“As I began to have children and (became) older I wanted to raise them in Jacksonville where I was raised,” Baker said. “We’re able to give back to the community and just be a part of the community that I grew up in. We’re able to see the change and make change ourselves.”