Danville Express

Newsfront - June 29, 2007

Alamo coffee kiosk back in business

Drive-through shop is now a family affair

by Natalie O'Neill

Denise and Larry Bell run a coffee house in Alamo - and they also live in one. Now that their new family business is off the ground, their Alamo home is buzzing with coffee talk.

"We went around for a couple weeks to do tastings to upgrade the coffee. I was so jacked up on caffeine," Denise said with a smile.

The Bells and their two sons Ryan and Tyler have taken on ownership and management of the drive-through coffee shop in the Longs Drugs shopping center in Alamo. And the business venture is turning out to be a real team effort.

"I'm the managing owner and my husband funded it, our son Ryan is a barista, and even our 17-year-old pitches in," Denise explained.

Ryan, 21, a San Ramon Valley High School graduate, had previous experience as a barista, and Denise loved the idea of a convenient coffee drive-through. So when the venue closed down in April, the Bells had their eyes on it, they recalled.

"My dad jumped on it," Ryan said.

Casa Espresso, the renamed coffee shop which was once Cafe Xpresso, will now provide higher quality hot and iced coffee and espresso and fruit smoothies for families and professionals on the go. While coffee quality has improved, the drinks are still less expensive than nearby shops, Denise added.

Denise, who was a "soccer mom" when her boys were younger, said she was always looking for an easy pit stop when she was carpooling her children around.

"It's quick on the way to work or if you are taking your kids to sports," she added.

"This way, parents don't have to take their kids out of the car," Ryan added.

Eventually they decided on McLaughlin Coffee, organic fair trade coffee based out of Emeryville, and espresso imported from Costa Rica.

The deciding factor was that the family found McLaughlin's taste to be bold but not bitter.

"Everybody says they love this coffee. One woman tells us our mocha chillers are to die for. We've had nothing but positive feedback," Denise said.

The fruit smoothies, which are all natural and made from fresh bananas and strawberries, are already a big favorite. In addition, they say they would love to hear suggestions from customers on what else they should sell.

"We're looking for ideas - anything that's easy and fast that people really like," Denise said.

Casa Espresso also gives away dog bones, which have helped the Bells get acquainted with their new patrons - and their pets. The family is pleased that they already have a regular customer base.

"We already know our regulars' orders. You meet a lot of people, find a lot of personalities. It's a lot of fun," Denise said.


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