Friday, June 26, 2009
Local Love Fridays: The Coffee House Creamery Family
Talus, Natalie, Sophie and Toren Park
I sat down with Natalie Park, owner of the Coffee House Creamery, and talked about family.
Family permeates everything about the Coffee House Creamery, and that's one of the reasons I love it so. It is truly a spot, as the old Cheers theme song goes, "Where everybody knows your name".
"One thing that sets us apart is the service – the staff is really good. I just got a really nice compliment from a former business owner who talked about how great the service is and I passed it via e-mail to all my employees – we have really good coffee, really good food, really good ice cream, but it’s the face at the counter that brings people in." This was Natalie's response when I asked her what makes Coffee House Creamery different from the myriad other coffeehouses in Ann Arbor, and what she said couldn't be more true.
The thing is, Coffee House Creamery does have great coffee, fresh, local baked goods, and lovely ice cream - there's no stinting on quality here, but it is the fact that the Park family opens up their hearts to the community that really makes this place special.
One of the points of starting Coffee House Creamery was so that Natalie, a former teacher, would be more available to her children, Sophie, 8 and Toren, 10. What she ended up with was extended family through her group of very loyal customers. This week her husband, Talus, was out of town, and she ended up going out to dinner with a seventy-six-year-old regular who's become an extended part of the Park family, and spent the evening with a couple of her employees on another night. How many folks do you know who like to hang out with their boss outside of work hours?
In addition to the warm family atmosphere, this place has serious coffee drink chops. I was delighted to see my favorite drink from Italy, espresso con panna, on the menu. This is the only place I've found it other than North Beach in S.F. or Little Italy in NYC. And it completely rocks - perfect, smooth, European-style espresso with freshly made whipped cream.
Natalie and Talus went to Barista school to perfect their technique, Talus, an engineer, designed and built their coffee filtration system, which is perfectly balanced so that the coffee is soft, but not flat, and they have their own custom roast espresso by Magnum roasters of Nunica, Michigan. Another coffee treat that has become a huge hit with the regulars is their special "Blueberry Crumble" blend from Magnum.
For those of you with less caffeine-generated tastes (and possibly with a gaggle of small children), the 24 flavors of Hershey's premium ice cream are certainly enticing after a night at the movies (Coffee House Creamery is just opposite Quality 16 at the edge of the parking lot there). Natalie and Talus picked out Hershey's as their store brand because, for them, the taste takes them back to their childhoods in West Virginia. With Hershey, Pennsylvania being just a short distance over the border, this is truly a taste from the past. There are some amazing flavors here - D and I are particularly addicted to the Gold Medal, and recent special flavors have included Red Velvet and Mint Moose Tracks (which is to die for, truly). And what six-year-old can't be coaxed into a smile at the thought of a Superman cone?
There are also wonderful baked goods, made by Natalie, as well as Barry Bagels, home cooked oatmeal, several sandwiches, and a soup of the day.
And you can always play a game or two.
So the next time you need a cooling off from the summer's heat, or just want to get to know one of the friendliest places in Ann Arbor, I'd recommend my favorite hangout.
Coffee House Creamery, 3780 Jackson Road, Located directly in front of the Quality 16 Movie Theater. 734-222-0555 - M - Th - 7:00 - 10:00, Fri. 7:00 - 11:00, Sat. 8:00 - 11:00, Sun 10:30 - 9:00.
Also, for a fascinating look at Superman ice cream and its Michigan connections, see the wonderful new blog The Mitten.