WALDPORT — Kristen Smallwood couldn’t be more grateful in her current surroundings.
“I’m beyond blessed,” she said.
Though Smallwood expected to be leaving her shift at the ever-popular Espresso 101 coffee hut drive-thru around noon this past Sunday, she was happy to log a few extra hours to help her fellow baristas handle a steady flow of customers, pretty much the norm for a sunny August weekend afternoon in Waldport. Yet there she was, back preparing the coffee shop for its 6 a.m. opening the next morning, ready to cheerfully greet the clientele.
Such is life these days for Smallwood, who in June, along with husband, Jason, took over as owners of Espresso 101 from Jason’s mother, Ronni Larson-Larsen, and her husband, Tedd Larsen. And despite the seemingly never-ending line of customers, long hours and grueling pace that naturally comes with being a hands-on business owner, Smallwood says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“From the history of this coffee shop, and Ronni working so hard and making this everything that it is today, and then being able to continue that on, I just couldn’t be more excited about it,” Smallwood said.
Espresso 101’s history dates back to December 1993, when Larson-Larsen and her sister, Ronda, established the shop, each often working 12-hour days while the business earned a reputation for top-notch espresso drinks, tasty treats and friendly service. Espresso 101’s business continued to grow in the heart of downtown Waldport, and it was sold in 2007 to Nichole Anderson and Don Black.
But Larson-Larsen missed greeting her early-bird customers at Espresso 101 with a trademark ear-to-ear smile, and she and Larsen bought the business back eight years later in 2015. For the next six years, she’d jump behind the drive-thru window during weekday morning rush, while Larsen held court, directing traffic in the busy lot, chatting up customers in line for coffee and feeding treats to their canine companions before the two slipped away to their fulltime jobs in Toledo.
In announcing Espresso 101’s ownership transition in June on the business’ Facebook page, Larson-Larsen thanked their regular customers for trusting Espresso 101 to start their day off right with a good coffee drink and a sweet treat.
“Thank you for all of the love and support over the years,” she wrote. “Tedd and I want you all to know how much we appreciate you and will continue to be a part of the community.”
If the Smallwoods expected Espresso 101’s customer base to treat new ownership any differently than before, that notion was quickly dispelled.
“The whole community has been so welcoming, and it really warms my heart,” Smallwood said. She added that she discusses the ins and outs of the business with Larson-Larsen on a daily basis.
Smallwood, whose food service industry history features employment at Local Ocean Seafoods and Rogue Ales & Spirits in Newport, and Shucker’s Oyster Bar in Lincoln City, said the most surprising aspect of owing Espresso 101 is the amount of business it sees.
“l knew it was going to be busy, but this is like beyond busy,” she joked.
So what’s changed so far, and what does Smallwood hope to change at Espresso 101 in the near future?
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” she said. “I want to keep it the way Ronni had it. I mean, why mess with a good thing, right?”