Brukes Coffee & Music brings passion for music to your neighborhood coffee shop

by Lorne Chambers | Editor

It’s two days before Christmas and as people are zooming all over West Ashley getting last minute gifts and holiday preparations, Brukes Coffee & Music offers a nice relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle. A lady walks up to the counter to order. “I’ll have two cups of coffee and three ukuleles.” She wasn’t kidding.

This probably sounds odd if you haven’t been to Brukes, formerly Soujourn’s, yet. But if you have, then it probably makes more sense. Part neighborhood coffee shop, part music store, Brukes aims to be a community meeting place that caters to local musicians and music lovers alike. It’s name is a combination of Brews (coffee, not beer) and Ukes (short for ukulele). 

Not long after the woman got her coffee and picked out here three ukuleles that she was buying for last minute Christmas gifts, Sandy Tecklenburg came in to order a tamborine for her husband, City of Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg, as well as another instrument for another family member.

With the opening of Brukes Coffee & Music, musician and West Ashley resident Chris Bluemel has found a way to combine several of his loves in one place. Inside the new coffeeshop you will not only find great coffee, but you will immediately notice an impressive wall of musical instruments for sale, a nitrogen-infused cold press growler station, a vintage sit-down Ms. PacMan cocktail table arcade game, an ice cream cooler, and a kitchen that’s churning out delicious baked goods and possibly the best grits in town. While that’s a quite a claim in a city whose signature dish involves grits, Bluemel stands by his proprietary preparation of course-ground grits, which are called “Harmony Hominy,” on the menu, a play off of Brukes devotion to both food and music.

“It’s an arts-focused coffee shop,” says Bluemel, a former US Army musician who regularly plays tuba in three different symphony orchestras in the area — Charleston, Hilton Head, and Beaufort, as well as the Maritime Brass Quintet, Cameron & The Saltwater Brass, and various freelance work. In addition to Brukes, Bluemel is the owner of Southern String Supply (formerly known as The Instrument Doc) in Mt. Pleasant, which repairs, leases, and sells instruments of all kinds. 

Creativity and personal expression is what Brukes is all about — whether it’s how you top your grits or if you need a place to rehearse or teach a music lesson. Bluemel is in the process of converting the coffee shop’s former storage room into a separate rehearsal space for musicians and music teachers. 

Brukes proves that artistic expression comes in many different forms. Which brings us back to those grits again. The Hominy Harmony. “Our grits are our flagship. We basically reverse engineer them,” says Bluemel, explaining that they make them vegan-friendly in their most basic form, but it’s up to you how creative you want to be with it from there. You can make them “creamy” or “creamier” if you want. Throw on your choice of three different kinds of cheeses, butter, garlic, house seasoning, BBQ sauce, or Thai chili sesame oil. But don’t stop there, for a couple bucks more you can add bacon, ground sausage, turkey andouille, bratwurst, or shrimp.

Brukes also offers some combination suggestions, with creative names that stay true to the coffee shop’s musical theme, like Bluemel’s personal favorite “The Lost Wagner,” which includes garlic, provolone, bratwurst, a hint of cream, and Bruke’s special Thai chili sesame oil.

Bluemel, who lives just behind Brukes in Northbridge Terrace, is a big advocate for bringing more arts to West Ashley. “For years I’ve watched downtown get all of the arts focus. I love the direction West Ashley is trying to go, but I’d love to see more of the arts make their way over here.” He says he is part of the group that is pushing City Hall to consider turning the old Piggly Wiggly space across the street from Brukes into a cultural arts center.

In the meantime, Brukes itself is becoming an arts center and Bluemel is wanting to host an arts event every Wednesday at the coffee shop. “Coffee shops are where people are supposed to read poetry and a venue to have an outreach, but we can have student ensembles, a brass quintet, a sting band, or swing dance lessons.”

Brukes Coffee and Music is located at 1664 Old Towne Road, Suite D. For more information, call (843) 225-9091 or visit them on their Facebook page.

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