Emily and George Grossman of Soldotna enjoy the coffee culture at Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna as they read and study music. While some businesses close up for the winter, Kaladi's maintains a steady customer base.
Photo by Mark Quiner
While many retail businesses close down for the winter, there are some that keep humming all year.
The warm feel of Kaladi Brothers Coffee Company's Soldotna coffee shop was alive Tuesday with paintings garnishing the walls, kids running around, some regulars studying their sheet music for an upcoming music lesson and two friends catching up. The bright inviting color on the walls reflected the sun glittering in the snow melt dripping from the gutters through the windows.
And this is the way it is supposed to be a warm spot for regular coffee drinkers and the occasional patron alike, said Heidi Metteer, manager for the Soldotna store.
Designers of Kaladi Brothers aimed to start a business that served the communities of Soldotna and Kenai and not be subject to the seasonal highs and lows associated with tourism, said Tim Gravel, president of this Anchorage based company.
Gravel said they have succeeded as they rarely have much fluctuation in business during the different seasons.
"It's got kind of a homey feel to it," Metteer said.
"It's part of their everyday life," she said, referring to the regular customers.
Metteer said if anything, in the summer the regulars get off of their coffee shop schedule and spend a lot more time chasing leaping salmon in the Kenai River or on tall mountain peaks.
Tourists are welcome, she said. Occasionally one will find the off-the-main-road hangout or a local will bring in visiting relatives, she said.
Kaladi Brothers is an Anchorage-based coffee roaster and retailer. What started as as coffee cart on an Anchorage street has exploded into nine stores seven in Anchorage and the other in Wasilla.
Gravel said when Kaladi Brothers first arrived in Soldotna in the early 1990s, there was not much of a coffee culture in the area. However, company owners believed there was a market to be tapped, he said.
Now, in a store he said he believes is a success, Gravel revealed what he thought to be the key: "We've tried to educate our customers about our product."
While much of the advertising is word of mouth, the company also is heavily involved in the community donating money and time to events, he said.
Regular Emily Grossman said she has done a lot of traveling and experienced the "coffee culture" in many parts of the country. Nothing compares to the experience one gets at Kaladi's, she said.
When asked how often she and her husband, George Grossman, come to the store, they both replied, "every day." The reason: coffee.
The Grossmans' work at Solid Rock Bible Camp outside of Soldotna. During the offseason, Emily spends her time teaching piano and violin lessons. While they both live at the camp, the Grossmans said they consider Kaladi's their home away from home.
Emily also is an artist and has taken advantage of the rotating art on the walls of the shop. Every month a new display appears.
"It's not snobby like art galleries," Metteer said.
Kaladi's regulars are as diverse as the community it serves, Metteer said.
There is one group that comes every morning like clockwork and occupies a number of tables, she said.
"They call themselves the 'over-the-hill gang,'" she said.
Every morning this group arrives and brings its own picnic while they drink their coffee. "(It's a) potluck at the coffee shop," she said.
She said a lot of people come and go every day. And the best part of her eight-year career there?
"The friendships that I've gotten from working here," she said.
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