Clark, Cenci square off in battle of titans

"I know most of our customers or about 300 regulars by name," said Leet. "If I don't know your name, I usually know what you drink."

Leet is a fixture at Steel City which draws national music performers as well as regional musicians on the way up to it's stage. Steel City staples also include poetry readings, chamber music, open mike night, music circle, movie discussions following screenings at the Colonial Theatre, book signing and CD release parties.

"Steel City is the center of the community," said Leet. "This is where people hang out. Every day there is a couple of business, political and religious meetings." Leet spoke about working in an atmosphere which there are few strangers.

"It's a little coffee house family," said Leet. "I see the same people every day and they all have their own little rituals which is a nice thing."

"It's nice to see people who have gotten to know each other from being here," said the 33-year-old who is married to another fixture at Steel City, Lance Leet. "People walk down the street and they recognize each other from being at Steel City."

Leet pours House Blend coffee, the shop favorite, while working most of the live performances at the coffee house.

"I'm always overwhelmed by the quality of the music," said Leet. "Sometimes it makes you cry. I've cried several times on stage because of the music.

"The music moves me and the audience so much that sometimes spontaneously people sing along with the musician. It's a beautiful thing. The only other time that people sing together is at church."

With just the right number of seats, excellent acoustics and modest cover charges (many of the events are free), Steel City is one of the premier listening rooms in the area and often sells out.

"Business is great, but work is often nerve racking," said Leet. "I want everybody to be happy, have a seat and enjoy themselves."

"It's basic supply and demand," said Leet. "When we have sell outs people get mad. It intrigues them. They want to know what's happening. If you can't get in the more you want to get in."

Leet said that it takes the most time to prepare a cappuccino of all the shop's offerings because of the froth. She also said that during the 60-hour work weeks she misses her family and friends.

Leet is a former social worker who worked with Child Welfare Departments for foster children in both Delaware and Chester counties.

"Foster care work was stressful because of the life changing decisions that I made with both the aid of the courts and families, which can have life changing effects," she said. "I was giving 110 percent but it took so much out of me that I didn't have anything left for my outside interests."

Leet lives in the historic district of Phoenixville in a 130-year-old house with her husband and a fluffy cat, Sausalito.

She said that she likes to do "my social work" with some of Steel City's customers.

"A lot of people have needs and if you can make them happy for a couple of minutes then it's worth it," said Leet. "And in turn, people give back.

"People know when I'm having a rough day since I'm not so good at disguising my emotions. They try to make me smile or laugh and I appreciate it."

Leet compared the experience to karma.

"What goes around, comes around."

Editor's Note: The Phoenix Profile is a weekly feature focusing on people of local interest from the Phoenixville area. If you would like to nominate someone to be the Phoenix Profile e-mail or call 610-933-8926.

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