Coffee

Alexis Marcum, center, and manager Christina Felicie work on drinks at Coffee Cravings on Isaacs Avenue recently, as fellow worker Cassie Patterson walks past.

When construction on Isaacs Avenue closed both an entry point and an exit to the two-laned Coffee Cravings shop, owners made lemonade out of lemons.

They removed some of the landscaping between the two lanes and connected a path, so drivers could enter from the back alley in one direction, turn around in front of the building, exit to the alley and never have to touch the construction.

“We just threw the idea out: What if we made our own road?” co-owner Kayla Heitzmann said.

On several days without it during the construction season, the business might have otherwise been completely shut down from the lack of access. But for the majority of the time, roadwork has not been a deterrent for the loyal customers who make the stand at 1615 Isaacs a regular stop in their day.

This is just one of the many reasons Heitzmann calls this her “dream job.”

“Being here is so fun it doesn’t feel like work,” she said.

Heitzmann started working at the business’ then-Ninth Avenue stand at 17 as a high school job. Not long after, the Poplar Street construction and relocation took place. After high school graduation, she went on to college at Gonzaga University and returned to Coffee Cravings for work during her summer breaks.

When a project in college asked her to describe her dream job, owning this coffee business was her answer.

The culture that started when Susan and Brian Richard launched the business in 1990 is part of the attraction: quick and friendly service in a warm atmosphere that feels more like family.

About 20 employees staff the Isaacs and Poplar Street locations, where this time of year, especially, the signature crushed ice is a draw for refreshing drinks.

Granitas are the No. 1 drink in summer, Heitzmann said. A new machine at the Poplar location doubled the size of the previous machine to help keep up with demand for the semi-frozen coffee drinks created with a house-made mixture. Iced lattes, iced Americanos, iced tea and Red Bull are among the other high-demand drinks to beat the heat and stay caffeinated at the same time, Heitzmann said.

Most of the time, employees are so acquainted with the customers lined up for drinks, they can get started on their favorite orders before the vehicles even reach the drive-thru window.

“We really try our hardest to get people through as fast we can,” Heitzmann said.

In addition to a shared love of coffee, the draw to the business is the shared interactions with the friendly faces coming through each day.

“We’re so, so thankful customers continue to come,” she said.

 

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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