Business

'Warehouse' is now 'Criminal Coffee': 'Our espresso is wanted,' new owner says

Top photo: Patrick O
Top photo: Patrick O'Brian, 13, enjoys a doughnut break at Criminal Coffee before heading to boxing practice, Feb. 24. Middle photo: Benjamin Ware pitches in behind the counter and serves a drip to Pastor Joe Gamez of Calvary Chapel. Bottom photo: A menu sign out front dates back to the coffee shop's origin as Kinikia's Koffee House.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Warehouse Coffee, 301 Tucker Ave., has new owners. Look for more changes and a new name.

Ramona Hayes and Cory Eglash bought Warehouse Coffee from Dwight Ware on Feb. 8. Clinton Mills, who bought the business from Ware in September, stopped making payments in January and closed shop, Ware said. He had changed the business name to Solid Grounds Coffee Shop, added karaoke, expanded the menu, and applied for a license to sell beer and wine. But the license application didn't sit well with Ware or community members concerned about beer and wine being sold so close to Friday Harbor High School.

Ironically, Mills closed shop despite getting conditional approval of the beer and wine license, which he felt was key to making the business more viable.

(Mills, a licensed chemical dependency counselor and town planning commissioner, has not been available for comment. He did not return phone messages left on his counseling service phone; the number is now disconnected. And he has not attended recent commission meetings).

For now, the Solid Ground sign is gone and the Warehouse Coffee sign is back up, but the business will soon have new signage with the business's new name: Criminal Coffee. The subtitle: "Our espresso is wanted."

Eglash and Hayes have spruced up the coffee shop, provide Wi-Fi service, and restored the menu of bagels, brown bag lunches, muffins and snacks that dates back to the coffee shop's roots as Kinikia's Koffee House (the original Kinikia's sandwich board is out front). The coffee shop sells Tony's Coffee, an organic fair-trade brand. The hours are Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Feb. 24, Criminal Coffee was a busy place. Teens lounged on the big comfy couch, reading and snacking, or helped behind the counter. There was a mid-afternoon rush of customers, workers at neighboring businesses, for drips and lattes. Two people talked about important matters at a bistro table. Eglash kidded fifth-grader Megan O'Brian: "Where are all the fifth-graders? I've still got a lot of food left," he said as she munched on a brownie.

This is the relaxed feel Hayes wants — and what she said will make the coffee shop successful. She plans new paint, cabinets and furniture. "We want to make it family style, with more of a homey feel, like going to a friend's house where you come in and have a cup of coffee with us," she said. She is making the coffee space available to groups for after-hours meeting space (a Passover Seder will be celebrated here March 31). In two weeks, she will add Coffee and Dessert Nights on Fridays and Saturdays, 7-11 p.m., to accommodate the theater crowd.

About the name: Eglash said he and Hayes chose the name to put to rest stories that circulated locally about Hayes' background after she proposed starting a transportation service for senior citizens here. In July 2003, she pleaded guilty in Carson City, Nev., to embezzling $1,200 from a senior services-related non-profit of which she was president, and to forging a letter indicating another organization she was associated with had received a grant to build a new senior center. She was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay restitution. She had no prior convictions.

Some of her customers say they believe in second chances.

Calvary Church Pastor Joe Gamez's office is in the same complex as Criminal Coffee, and he is a regular customer. He quoted Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come."

Gamez added, "God's about giving us a new start ... If Christ forgives us, who are we to hold grudges?"

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