There's just something to love about coffee shops, especially the small mom-and-pops. The warm, comforting specialty coffees. An inviting atmosphere. Staff who know just what you want. Other happy customers.
But let's be real. It's hard to find a place that encompasses all of those things. Usually, you end up settling on impatient staff to have good coffee or you drink the bland brews for free Wi-Fi.
Luckily for all of us, there is a coffee shop that doesn't make its customers sacrifice their coffee experience.
Yes, it's local - in Lodi even.
It's Coffees, Etc. Gourmet Coffee and Sandwiches Shoppe, tucked away on Kettleman Lane and Fairmont Street. Apparently, it's a well-known secret because around 10 a.m. on a Friday, the coffee shop was hopping with regulars - most of whom already knew each other. Unbelievable.
I sat down with owner Mike Mallory, who first joked around with a few daily customers. Coffees, Etc. has been in the same location for 10 years, but Mallory took it over a year and a half ago. After 25 years in education, Mallory was looking for a change.
It wasn't a love for coffee that moved him into the coffee industry. In fact, "he didn't know the difference between a latte and a mocha," his wife, Suzanne, admitted.
Nor was the money a motivation.
"I wanted to connect with the community and make relationships," he said.
And that's what he has done.
On a community wall dedicated to "Building One Cup at a Time," Mallory hangs framed fliers for local services and businesses. He admits it was his wife's idea, but so far it has helped him help customers.
Mallory isn't the only one getting to know his customers. His customers are getting to know each other.
"They find each other at various events," he said. "It's a way to make new friends. I know when and where to connect them."
Beside study groups, book clubs, luncheons and Bunco game nights, the actual coffee is a reason to go to Coffees, Etc. The coffee shop offers gourmet hot and iced coffees and teas, including mochas, white mochas, lattes, chai tea, steamed cider, Italian sodas, chocolate and white chocolate frappes and various house coffees.
Coffees, Etc. also specializes in sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast sandwiches include egg and cheese and your choice of ham, bacon, sausage or plain. They can be served on English muffin, toast or, for 50 cents more, a bagel or croissant. They also offer a variety of bagels: asiago cheese, cinnamon crunch, everything, sesame, blueberry, French toast, Dutch apple raisin, plain and whole grain.
What: Coffees, Etc.
Where: 1040 W. Kettleman Lane
Hours: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.
Specialties: Mochas ($3-$3.80), house coffee ($1.50-$2), Smoothies ($3-$3.50), breakfast sandwiches ($1.90-$2.50), gourmet sandwiches ($5.95).
Gourmet sandwiches are $5.95 and include chips or salad of the day. Choose your bread, meat (turkey, roast beef, ham, salami, veggie, chicken salad, egg salad or tuna) and cheese. Each sandwich is layered with mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions and sprouts.
As I savored my Extreme Toffee Latte, modeled after the Almond Rocha candy, Mallory introduced me to each of his customers. He wasn't lying when he said he knew them well.
"I know all of their names and their drink is ready when they walk in the door," he said.
Stan Gambetti is a long-time customer who has been spending his mornings at Coffees, Etc. since before Mallory took over the business. He drinks his coffee with milk from a glass mug and looks out the window for his daughter who meets him every morning.
"It's a very pleasant place - especially when the owners are on hand," Gambetti said. "It really makes a difference."