Shop owners to take 'coffee break'

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Gourmet coffee drinkers, birthday cake buyers and noontime panini fans who partake of Serendipity delicacies need to prepare themselves for a change of ownership.
Owner J'Lea Driver said the business officially went on the market in March. And if she has her way, she'll sell the 3-year-old business to someone who will keep it as it is. She'll even pass on the family lemon bar recipe to help make that happen.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Driver said of the decision to sell the business. "We kind of did this from the ground up." She and her family have plans to move out of the area, which is the main reason it is up for sale.
When she and her husband decided to open the cafe, neither had ever tasted a cafe latte. Now it's her drink of choice. They had never owned their own business, either.
"We had never done this before. We had no idea of what we were getting into," she said.
Years ago, Driver said she taught elementary school during the academic year and baked cakes in the winter. When she stopped teaching she continued baking, but pretty soon, her home was overrun with cakes. It was time to make a decision: either get in the business or get out.
She decided to get into the cake business officially and add lunch and coffee offerings into the mix. Serendipity has been successful with all three aspects, despite skepticism from friends and even the consultant they hired from Seattle, she said.
"He was a purist," Driver said. The consultant had discouraged her from straying from beverages.
In the beginning there was a lot of guesswork in buying equipment and deciding menu options. But Driver said she knew from the start that she wanted to offer all homemade food. Each day they offer one soup, sandwich and panini option as well as baked goods and all of it -- save the bread -- is homemade.
Driver works full time at the shop. She also manages one full-time employee and five part-time employees, which has been a whole learning experience in itself, she said.
Probably the most surprising thing Driver learned was that coffee beans are not beans at all, but green berries.
Coffee beans from different countries have different tastes, and their flavor also changes depending on the way they are roasted, Driver said. She has a new coffee bean from Ethiopia that has the faint taste of blueberry. She knows more about coffee than ever before, and she might even go so far as to call herself a coffee snob. The best part of the business is interacting with people, Driver said. But having experienced owning a business and natural childbirth, both are overrated, she said, smiling. She's looking ahead and is excited about the prospect of becoming a grandmother in December. After that, she said she likely would retire.
There have been two serious buyers since March, but at the last moment, each offer fell through, she said.
"My original goal was to stay five years and then retire," Driver said. She laughed and said she just might just make the five-year mark if it doesn't sell.

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