Scenes from the City: Michele Burroughs
Writing and photography by Abby McGuire.
With summer energy pulsing, Cincinnati is more than just a heatwave. The possibility of good moments seems to be swelling, just as my heart did when I heard about Michele Burroughs. A long word-of-mouth grapevine of coworkers, mothers with a hunger for caffeine, and my frequent eavesdropping paid off in the best way. After learning about Michele’s journey establishing a Pleasant Ridge caffeine gem a few months ago, I knew I wanted to make time to hear her story.
Trying to channel my coolest self to cover my nerves, I walked up the road to her storefront a slight mess. A rush of cool air and the scent of spiced coffee settled me upon opening the door to Apricot Coffee House. Michele moved comfortably behind the counter, simultaneously prepping coffee and greeting me. We had pretended that sitting and talking was feasible when scheduling our chat, but a standing conversation was the only way we would get around to speaking between the waves of customers coming in to order their regulars. We weren’t upset about it.
I wish I could say she’s unassuming, but that would be beyond a white lie. She is a perfect blend of confident, transparent, and inviting, with a contagious laugh that hooks you into good conversation. Michele is an unapologetic force, taking on Pleasant Ridge with integrity like I haven’t seen before.
It takes me no time to realize that Michele is such a pure person. When I ask where she grew up, she tells me something like, “Well, I grew up in the south of France, but I lived on a yacht most months of the year until I was 12, so, yeah, I just moved around a lot, blah, blah.”
I watch her shoulders rise and fall in a shrug between switching on the espresso machine and storytelling, in utter disbelief with a dumb look frozen on my freckled face. “Uh, no, Michele, that’s not ‘blah, blah!’”
While trying to find a way to tell Michele her life is nothing to be skimmed over, I resign to the beauty of her obliviousness of how amazing she is. It seems like a nice secret that makes her light more exciting.
I look away to gather my awe and realize nothing lacks intention in Michele’s life.
I quickly learn that a mother and father with the confidence to travel with their children helps shape the best free spirits. After living on a boat with only three months on land in France, Michele and her family relocated to Ft. Lauderdale until she was old enough to move elsewhere in Florida for college.
I’m not surprised to hear that not even collegiate goals could hold her back from taking on new adventures. Within the first couple of years of pursuing a major in nutrition and a minor in horticulture, Michele decided to move to San Diego with a friend and continue her studies there. She took up surfing soon after and taught lessons on the side in Ocean Beach.
I drool as we swap California stories, hungry for more. With the expenses that come with living in San Diego, she was unable to keep up with her craving for life experiences and higher education, so she headed back to Florida to finish her degree at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Soon after finishing school, she found herself returning to the lifestyle she knew as a child, working on yachts and taking on water sports in her free time. When she wasn’t out on the water, she was taking solo trips and hanging on the beach, which eventually led her to meet her husband, Shawn. Shawn happened to vacation in Florida and run into Michele, who was open to hanging out with an almost stranger from Madeira on the beaches of Florida. Six months went by and they couldn’t imagine going through life without each other. In 11 months, they were married and moving to Cincinnati after their honeymoon backpacking through Vietnam – the trip that would inspire the premise of Apricot.
When they arrived back home, Michele and Shawn joked about opening a coffee shop and never working for anyone else if they could help it. Shawn brought it up a month or so later in all seriousness and Michele jumped into researching.
She wanted something that had no bounds for the community. Something that would bring Pleasant Ridge together through cultural acceptance and the traditions behind the coffee the community was enjoying. Michele smiles and confesses she really wanted to do this for her. She wanted to create a space for people where she could foster great company, and I tell her there is nothing selfish about her model at all.
Every coffee she offers has a story behind it inspired by her travels. After having experienced so many different cultures, she realized there’s nothing better than sharing what she’s seen and learned. With fair trade in mind, she built a menu drawing from what she regularly makes for herself at home, along with a focus on featuring local artists and spreading the word about their talents.
I ask her how she did all this so quickly and she tells me she just winged it. I look away to gather my awe and realize nothing lacks intention in Michele’s life. Her willingness, openness, and intoxicating energy ripple through Cincinnati, and the city returns the favor. She never gives up on what she believes is right, and her confidence to say “yes” to all good things leads me to trust that her business will significantly impact Pleasant Ridge. Michele reminds me roots can spread wide and still grow deep. As we find ourselves, our sense of place defines itself and eventually we can share the wealth with others.
With a positive outlook for the future, Michele can’t wait to learn more about her community’s needs. Her smile brightens with the possibilities of coffee ceremonies and a larger gathering space. Her immersion in everything she does electrifies me. I look down to see I didn’t need to finish my cup of coffee to feel so awake and buzzing on possibilities.
Have a woman in mind that Abby should chat with? Email her at email@example.com. In the meantime, check out past Scenes from the City columns and stay tuned for more of the city's hidden gems on the first Saturday of every month.