Karla Wagner is a Florida native who loves film especially when shown at small, intimate venues. The serendipitous closing of a downtown St. Augustine movie house opened the door for Wagner to own a venue that would satisfy movie buffs and serve the community.
What can you share about your background?
I am a native Floridian born in Orlando. I graduated from Rollins College and have worked in the corporate world for over 20 years including banking, events and pharmaceuticals. I grew up in Winter Park near two art houses similar to mine; The Enzian and The Aloma Draft House, where I would spend most of my time watching foreign and independent films with my grandmother who also had a passion for films. I have two beautiful children that inspire me, and one husband of 30 plus years.
What led you to transform the movie theater into a café and cinema?
My husband and I moved to St. Augustine down the street from the theater. One of the reasons we bought where we did was that it had a small cinema within walking distance called “Potbelly’s” that I would frequent. When it closed down for a couple of years I was devastated — what town doesn’t have an art house or cinema? So, I got the idea to buy it and open it back up for the community. I do a lot of charitable causes as well as free events for the town. That’s where my corporate experience, along with my passion for films, came into play.
What is the significance of the name, Corazon?
It means “heart” in Spanish. Since I was finding it difficult to come up with a name that didn’t have “old” in it, I ran a naming contest in the local paper and when “The Corazon” came through, I knew that was the name. It is in the heart of the city and I wanted to create a gathering place for locals and visitors to enjoy the charm of the city and the arts.
How have the events changed since the venue opened in 2014?
With two hurricanes in recent years, I was impacted quite a bit by the destruction both times. That’s when I started to do more events in addition to showing movies and serving lunch and dinner. The venue’s space and the location right downtown lends itself to hosting events. I even have some parking, which makes it very convenient for people to attend. Now I do weddings, graduations, comedy, plays … you name it.
What do you envision for the future of the Corazon?
That’s the million-dollar question — people enjoy the charm of the place and the variety of activities. I want the people to enjoy the experience.
What do you like to do in your free time?
As a business owner, I don’t have a lot of free time — but if I can slip in an early morning tennis round robin, that’s where I will be!
What is one thing even close friends would be surprised to learn about you?
I am usually very open and most of my friends know everything about me, but maybe that I am not as tough as I appear on the outside. I think we all have our strengths and weaknesses and I have learned over the years not to be judgmental about people’s choices in life. One of my strengths is I can hold my own, but I’m also very sensitive at times and I try not to take it personally when it comes to business.
What advice can you offer other entrepreneurs?
I think small business owners have a tough time competing with franchises and bigger businesses. My advice to small business owners is that this takes time, don’t be afraid to try something, and you will need to make adjustments. I love my customers’ feedback and the support of the community.