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TCC alumna baking up sweet dreams in Virginia Beach

Walk into 17 Hands Coffee and you will be delighted by the smells and sights around you, from the glass cases filled with delicious baked goods, to the array of aromatic coffees and teas, to the warm décor.

17 Hands Coffee opened in 2019, the dream and inspiration of Tidewater Community College alumna Robin Simmons.

Robin and her staff serve freshly made quiches, scones, cakes, pies and a very long list of coffee and tea drinks that are sure to please.

“I love putting together beautiful, rustic, classic desserts. Our blueberry lemon scones are the most popular thing we bake. They sell out daily. Our shortbread coffee dipper is also a favorite,” she said.

It all began when Robin came to TCC to earn a business degree after graduating from Great Bridge High. “I had to take some pre-college classes and that was possible at TCC. I really applied myself because I had a goal and was able to graduate with honors which really helped my self-esteem,” she said.

With her degree in hand, Robin went to work for Inside Business and later, a local commercial printer.

“I had an associate degree in my pocket and many businesses required a degree and some experience,” she added. “What I know now is that If I hadn’t gone to school, I would not have been able to work where I worked and made the money I made to open my shop. It also gave me the confidence I needed.”

Robin says she still uses what she learned at TCC to run 17 Hands Coffee. “It’s helpful on the job to be able to speak to people with some knowledge under my belt,” Robin said. “And specific classes like accounting, business law and public speaking have been important for the journey.”

Robin partners with other local businesses including Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company for her coffee beans and Kewi Inspired Teas in Virginia Beach for tea latte concentrates. She also prints 17 Hands merchandise from a local printer and features local artists on greeting cards featured in the shop.

“One of our top priorities is to be a strong part of our community,” Robin said. “We also strive to set the bar high for everything we make and bake, as well as the service we provide.”

Robin takes care of her staff of bakers and servers. “I want this to be the best place to work, so we offer benefits, paid-time-off and profit-sharing,” she said.

Robin and the bakers at 17 Hands Coffee are gearing up for Valentine’s Day. If you are looking for a sweet treat for your sweetheart, you can find gift baskets, cakes and other desserts by visiting the store or ordering online.

Marking her success are 12 awards for her baked goods from the Virginia State Fair and an expansion next month into the commercial space adjacent to her location at 1830 Kempsville Road in Virginia Beach. Her place will soon boast another espresso bar and expanded seating.

“Success came for me after taking those first steps at TCC,” Robin said. “What I’ve learned is that when it gets hard, you have to love what you’re doing. It’s not about the money.”