Headquartered in Flushing, Mich., The Coffee Beanery franchises have been around since 1976. Thinking that her 24-year-old chain needed a little image jolt, JoAnne Shaw, the chain's founder and president, hired Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Zakaspace to turn her franchises into more than just the average cup of joe.

"I felt our stores had a nice look, they just weren't necessarily outstanding," says Shaw, noting that she was looking for a little "pizzazz" in only the third redesign of her stores.

Primarily, Shaw said the designers had to: Come up with an interesting design; focus on the coffee feel; and provide her franchise with the look of longevity.

The design also had to be flexible enough that it could be incorporated into the franchise's 200 stores, which are sized differently because they are located in strip centers, malls, freestanding and kiosk sites in 30 states.

"I wanted a designer to take the look of our stores up a notch and give The Coffee Beanery the feel of an upscale, comfortable, specialty coffee store," as opposed to a place where customers would just grab their coffee and go, Shaw says. "Zakaspace had experience in creating designs that made a statement. The themed design they came up with for us is 'coffee growing countries.'"

Now, The Coffee Beanery customers are greeted with an ambiance of a Colonial-era British, Dutch West Indies or Casablancan coffee plantation. According to Spiros Zakas, co-founder of Zakaspace and chief of design for the project, customers should feel they have traveled several miles to the authentic coffee plantations where beans are grown to taste The Coffee Beanery's espresso or coffee drinks.

"Even before entering the store, the subtle aroma of fresh-brewed coffees is apparent," he says. "As customers approach what seems to be a tropical setting with 8-foot tall coffee trees, rich wood and (African) slate floor treatments, it is clear that they have arrived somewhere special."

For example, wall coverings have a basketweave print, or were hand silk-screened with a five-color process to feature exotic banana leaves in hues of antiqued greens and golds, reminiscent of classic British Colonial designs. Ceiling fans use natural palm leaf blades. And in stores with large seating areas, booths and banquettes are upholstered in animal print fabrics.

The design is meant to help customers focus on The Coffee Beanery's premium products, Zakas notes. "When customers walk in, the design directs their focus to the front service counter and refrigerated food cases so they can see the products and various types of beans," he says. "We also placed classically styled, wooden wall clocks displaying the different time zones from various coffee-producing countries - Kenya, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Tanzania, Columbia, Sumatara and Jamaica - above the counter."

Typically, in the center of a store, old suitcases and trunks are filled with the franchise's products. Triple-tiered Duncan Phyfe-style tables and a vintage hand truck shelf unit are used to display cups and saucers.

"The designers incorporated a lot of elements from coffee trees, such as banana leaves, which often are used to shade coffee trees," Shaw says. Dark crown cherry wood seating and table tops also reflect coffee-rich tones.

According to Zakas, his firm's goal was to develop a solid image that showcased The Coffee Beanery's products yet could be incorporated into a number of settings. "So we took the product and built a house of strength around it."

Currently, the design has been unveiled at The Coffee Beanery's new 2,000 sq. ft. store in Little Rock, Ark. This year, Zakaspace also is working on updating 14 other stores and designing the franchise's new corporate office to fit the image. Eventually, the look will be incorporated into all Coffee Beanery locations. Despite the store size, which can range from 100 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft., the basics - wall coverings, tile and slate floors - always will be part of the design.

To further improve The Coffee Beanery, Shaw says her franchises will feature a new, smoother, mellow espresso, called Espresso Perfecto, and all new espresso beverages. Cafes also have added a small variety of sandwiches that will be assembled on the store's premises.

"The new design has been really great for us," Shaw says, adding that about 20 to 24 new stores will be opened in the next year. It seems everyone is "embracing this tasteful adventure."