Tori Guess walked through the doors and was greeted by the thick smell of roasted coffee. She ordered a frozen hot chocolate and set her bag on a stool. She took out her laptop and began her homework. The tables looked as though they had seen better years, just like the rustic truck parked out front. The truth was, the tables had been skillfully painted to look that way. They were made of sturdy metal and would last years before they started to rust. Guess sat on her stool; she looked comfortable with her half-finished cup of chilled “hot chocolate.”
Four other tables were packed with customers talking and waiting for their burgers and sandwiches. It was like they had been sent back to a past era where everything was simple. It was calm—no loud television with the news, only the soft undertones of country music from the radio. The loud vrooms of the highway were blocked by the thick walls.
Guess said she came to the store 3-4 times a week, and she usually got the same thing—a cup of frozen hot chocolate. “It’s a small quiet place to study and it’s close to campus,” she said.
The name of the store was stamped all over, on the truck outside, the front door and the top of the building in bright glowing lights. They read “Espresso 41.” The building looked smaller with all the things it held inside. Signs, posters and car parts covered the walls. There was the dash of an old pickup propped high up; it looked like a trophy. The trash bin was layered in stickers, and taped to the glass wall was a folded piece of paper that read “Wifi password.”
Espresso 41 was an old service station before it was a coffee shop. The owner is Justin Golden, who said it is a family business. Golden said before they took over, the service station had already been converted to a coffee shop, but it ran out of business. Golden said Espresso 41 has been going proud for five years for a reason. “We have a certain style.”
He described all the antiques that lined the store, including the fall paintings on the glass walls that change every season. Golden said he wanted the business to be “a funky coffee shop where everyone is welcome.” Now it’s a popular spot for coffee, but coffee isn’t all the small shop is known for.
The store hosts “Art 41,” an event where artists display their crafted merchandise for sale and local musicians entertain the crowd. “Last time we had over a hundred people turn up. It was packed outside,” said Golden. “They set up booths, and the musicians played. There are people who make candles, jewelry and all sorts of stuff.” The store hosts “Art 41” one or two times a year, and it’s one of the ways the business tries to support the community. “We use a lot of local produce for our food,” Golden said. Espresso 41 also tries to support one local organization every month.
The loud ding of the bell signaled a car had pulled up to the small window outside and was waiting to place an order. The business has its drive-thru for those customers in a rush. The mornings and lunch periods are always the busiest, with cars lined up behind each other and people strolling in. The employees handled these rushes with bright smiles. They took orders and were quick to get them sizzled, churned and wrapped to take home.
During busy hours the coffee machine would buzz loudly when it sloshed out a frappuccino, but the rush didn’t last long and then it was back to the quiet. Quiet is a regularity at the store, but with a college close by, there are sometimes large masses of people, particularly when events are hosted inside. The open-mic night was one such event. Normally used for fundraising by organizations on ABAC’s campus, open-mic night draws people who fill all the seats outside.
“We love ABAC. A lot of professors and students come here,” Golden said. The store employees wore happy faces. Golden recalled bad experiences with coffee shops and his wish for Espresso 41 was to be better.
“The people who make the coffee are always so snobby and rude. I taught my employees to always be kind and welcoming,” he said. The store’s coffee is sent directly to the shop, where it is roasted and brewed. Golden said the coffee is never old. It is brewed fresh every week, and the milk used in the coffee is local. “It’s not the cheap way to do it, but it’s the way we do it,” Golden said. “Starbucks is in speed. We’re quality.”
The quality is what brings customers back, like Tori Guess, who spent hours in the store sipping on her one cup of chilled hot chocolate. Finished with her work, she packed her things, tossed the empty cup into the stickered trash bin and headed back to campus.
“Starbucks? No, I come here more for sure,” Guess said. She’ll be back