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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Pretty Faces Behind your Coffee…

Gable Coffee Co.The days are short now and darkness comes early. Wind and rain rule the day. Nighttime, too. You add extra layers of clothing before venturing outdoors. Sunshine is a rare commodity these days, but if it’s warmth you crave on these chilly mornings, a steaming cup of coffee is certain to drive away the gloom, and just as good—if not better—than sunshine is coffee served with a smile and by a pretty face.

Mid-March this year Beebes’ corner became decaffeinated. The Ripple posted about the abrupt departure of the little blue latte stand known as Tropical Blends (“Oh, Where, Oh, Where has the Little Stand Gone, 4/18): there in the morning, vanished on down the road in the afternoon, leaving  in the dust at least one disgruntled customer with a worthless fully paid up punch card. The only remnant tropical was the bewildered little palm standing abandoned, fronds still quivering in the slipstream. And so for nearly five months the Valley commuters experienced caffeine withdrawal.

One day, mid-summer, a successor moved onto the abandoned site and teetered there for a week or two. A garish yellow, as if painted by a DOT striping crew—an eyesore, at least to this observer—the little hovel made me wish the Valley had a covenant on paint schemes. For a week or so the little structure tilted there like a big pile of misplaced tenant at BB corner Then on weekends a flurry of activity surrounded the little hut and three weeks later a tasteful renovation had transformed the structure into a quaint little coffee cottage. The bilious yellow disappeared under warm cedar shingles. Miniature dormers sprouted above the serving windows and a tasteful green trim complimented the soft brown of the milled shakes.

One weekend while work was in progress, I stopped by and met Mike Kahler, handyman/co-owner of the stand. Mike laid down his nail gun and we chatted about the new business. At that time his wife Taylor, juggling an armload of child, appeared at the door of the stand. I complimented them on their fine job of renovating the tawdry little structure and candidly shared  my fear that Beebe corner might be doomed to yellow blight. Mike laughed and then shared a brief history of the building. Apparently the hut was an immigrant from up north. Rumor has it the stand may have had a “colorful” past. Mike was reluctant—adamant, in fact—to say much more about its history, didn’t want the new enterprise to be the Valley pariah. Pry as The Ripple would, no more information was forthcoming but was told that in this incarnation the stand was a “family friendly” business. Whatever its colorful past even a latte stand deserves a second chance. “We hope to be open for business August 1st,” Mike grinned.

Three weeks later, the week the Evergreen State Fair opened, the stand passed inspection and coffee was ready to be served. The Ripple, hoping to be the first customer, arrived at the stand about three hours too late (punctuality is not The Ripple’s strongpoint. Thus this belated post: here it is, late November and Gable’s Coffee Company has been in business nearly four months). To welcome the new business to the Valley, I presented a bouquet of backyard dahlias at the serving window.

An eponymous title, Gable’s Coffee Company takes its name from Kahlers’ son Gabe (the “armload” of child I mentioned earlier). Gabe’s mom Taylor is the CEO, president, CFO, manager: all of these in addition to serving her shifts as barista.Taylor and Gabe (“Taylor Kahler”: there’s a helpful mnemonic for you.) The other day, between customers, I chatted with Taylor about her business. “What’s the mission statement of Gable’s Coffee Company?” I asked her. Taylor lifted a punch card from a stack by the window, flipped it over, and handed it to me. “Enjoy Life One Cup At a Time” the back of the card stated, a slogan I appreciated for both its brevity and sincerity. Taylor, I learned, has been a barista for eight years. “Starbucks?” I asked. She shook her head. “At Starbucks, everything is programmed and pushbutton,” she complained. “I like to make my own blends and be more involved in the end result. Serving coffee at a Starbucks just isn’t as much fun.”

Not only is Gable’s Coffee Company family-friendly, it’s a family business, as well. Mike’s the handyman. Taylor manages the stand. Shifts are shared by younger sister Asia Rush. Even little Gabe is involved. One day I stopped by and discovered him on the floor of the stand unwinding a roll of paper towels; should Mom spill a beverage, Gabe had her back . And Asia? “What’s the story behind your name?” I asked her. AsiaShe said it was her dad’s choice. “Is that his favorite continent?” I wondered, thinking she should be thankful he hadn’t taken a fancy to Kazakhstan or Constantinople. Sister Taylor later explained her father chose the name because of a  beautiful little African American child who happened to be named “Asia.”

Madison Langton (“Madi,” she likes to be called) fills in part time, usually taking the afternoon shift. Madi’s is a familiar face you may have recognized from Mike Bennett’s fruit and vegetable stand next door where she has worked the past two years.   Madison

I admire entrepreneurship, especially on the part of the young and ambitious. Small business, whether it be a corner lemonade stand or hotdog cart, is part of the fabric of America. Having one’s own business and running it successfully is an accomplishment to be proud of. On my trips to town and back I make a point to check out the little stand on the corner. Almost always I see cars lined up for coffee and perhaps a pastry side dish (the pastries come from Sky Valley Bakery in town. By the way, the stand also sells local honey). “So how’s business?” I asked Taylor recently as she prepared my wife’s favorite latte. “I’m able to pay all my bills”she smiled,  “and put some money in the bank.” You couldn’t ask more from a business than that, could you?latte ad

My very first experience with a latte stand was years ago. Imagine my surprise when I discovered you could no longer walk up to the counter and order a cup of coffee. No such thing anymore. Caffeinated beverages now had exotic names and you had to use a  whole new language when you ordered a drink. I discovered the closest thing to my “cup of coffee” was called an “Americano.” So an Americano (just a “tall,” please) is now my drink of choice.  And, no, I don’t want double or triple shots, sugar, whip, or anything else. Just serve up my coffee with a smile and a pretty face…that’s all the sweetener I need. And at Gable’s Coffee Company, in addition to beverages at a reasonable price, you’ll get plenty of that.Coffee and more...

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  1. I too admire entrepreneurship - congrats to these young people on opening up their coffee shop and wishing them every success for the future.

    1. Mairead, thanks for your well wishes. I think these young ladies will be successful. They have an excellent location, the intersection of a busy state highway and a county road that's experiencing an increase in traffic (commuters trying to avoid more congested areas). Whereas the operator of the previous stand was buying it from a second party, had payments to make, the Gables own their stand and only have rent payments for the site...low overhead. The stand's customer base seems to be growing weekly, also. Another plus: the nearest Starbucks is a mile and a half away one direction and seven miles in the other. Thanks for taking the time to comment. TMJ

  2. Great service, great coffee and an adorable baby, what more could you want in a family coffee business? Coffee is free trade and yummy!

    1. Right you are, Peggy. The Ripple wishes the Gable Coffee Co. success and prosperity and extends a hearty welcome from our Valley community. Thanks for reading The Ripple. TMJ