Cia: Building Community Through Coffee, Ice Cream, and Art

Step into this café and step into a world of conversation, cuisine, and creativity.

Cia-JeannieHow lucky for South Portland, Maine that Jeannie Dunnigan and her wild notion of community relocated to the Knightville neighborhood. There’s no missing Jeannie on any day of the week: she’s the one in roller skates – yes, roller skates from days gone by, not to be confused with roller blades or inline skates. You might see her behind the counter at Cia Cafe, or rolling down the street to see what’s happening in this now-vibrant business community.

Jeannie’s take on things is simple: “Our mission at Cia is to serve our guests the best local coffee, local ice cream and local art work that Maine has to offer! I have always wanted to exhibit fine art in a relaxed and fun setting accessible to all.”

Jeannie invites local artists to be a part of her café – exhibiting their work which, of course, means she is giving them the opportunity to sell their work. Dick Sawyer, a gifted photographer who is also a friend and colleague, recently displayed his photographs at Cia. That’s when I got to see Jeannie’s dream play out: for the opening of the exhibit, she threw a party. Nothing new here – oh, except there was a band, and the band traveled into the street, and then across the street to encourage us to visit and support other shops in Cia’s neighborhood.

Cia-bandCia’s model for success is a breath of fresh air. Jeannie, her husband, and son are all involved in the business that draws people in to share a meal, a story, a laugh while appreciating the work of local artists. Food, stories, laughter: that’s what makes the world go ‘round, isn’t it? Thank you Cia for making our world go ‘round and ’round.


About Deb

Deb Nelson, principal of deb nelson consulting, is a creative storyteller. She designs and implements communication plans that leverage strategic partnerships and provide innovative solutions for her clients. You can find her on twitter at @nelliedeb.


  1. Awesome story! What an impactful brand image. Love! Thanks for sharing.
    Coach Niquenya recently posted..Successful? 3 Dream Killing Reasons You’re NotMy Profile

    • Definitely a great addition to this neighborhood – and what a great business model – becoming successful by building up those around you.

  2. Love this local idea of bringing people together in community, Deb. When you create a fun and interesting place for people to congregate, people will come. I believe this was originally the principal of Starbucks, however, it has long since left the local arena.

    My own experience of this kind of energy was visiting Portland, Oregon, to join thousands of other creatives in a community-driven gathering around service, adventure and fun. Cia Cafe is a fabulous example of making a personal dream happen and then serving others through doing it. Thanks for sharing it and enjoy it!
    Beverley Golden recently posted..More Women Should Call Themselves “Beautiful”My Profile

  3. What a great way to promote both your own business and those around you. Excellent way to create the unique branding that most businesses find difficult to do. Thanks for sharing this with us Deb, it is so good to see people following their dreams and doing it so well.
    Ian Campbell recently posted..Your Website Traffic Quantity Versus QualityMy Profile

  4. What a fantastic story Deb! Looks like her and her family are making an awesome tradition for all of the community with their unique flavor 🙂 Great post and share!
    Joan Harrington recently posted..Are You Talking to the Right People?My Profile

  5. Great blog Deb! I feel they have clear purpose behind their business, which is very important to build a great business and great community! Thank you for sharing
    Kaz recently posted..Power Of PainMy Profile

    • Thanks for the comment, Kaz. They sure have a clear purpose – helps them build out both their business and achieve community goals. A win-win for this neighborhood.

  6. I want to go visit. I love places like that, the ones with heart. 🙂
    Heather Cameron recently posted..Weekly Spark: 3 Steps to Apply Leverage to Your BusinessMy Profile

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