A bit of England

Woman brings her homeland to a place that reminded her of it

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The anomalies of running a small business are new to Susan Stone.

Before her interview with the Craig Daily Press last week, she and daughter, Natalie Legaspi, were patiently working out the kinks of a new credit card machine.

"This is new to me," Stone said. "But I love it."

Stone and her husband, Jeff, are the new owners of Serendipity Coffee House in Craig. This opportunity is a dream come true for the former credit-risk manager born in England.

"I've lived in seven states and seven countries, and Craig was where I wanted to retire," she said. "Jeff and I loved the freedom, space and solitude."

While on a visit to Craig in September, the couple talked to the Kitchen Shop's owner, Nadine Daszkiewicz, about how they wanted to retire in Craig.

Stone told Daszkiewicz about how much she wanted to open a coffee and tea shop, and Dasz--kiewicz pointed across the street where a "For Sale" sign was posted.

"Ninety-two days later, I was here," Stone said. "The opportunity fulfilled everything I've wanted."

Little England

Jeff and Susan met in Texas, when they both worked in the mortgage industry. They wed 10 years ago.

Jeff was born and raised on the Front Range, and every year since he was 6-years-old, he had traveled to Craig with his father to hunt. When he went with Susan for the first time to visit her childhood home in England, he told her she had to see Craig.

"The people and the surroundings he saw in England reminded him of Craig," Stone said. "When I came with him for the first time, I fell in love with the place."

She also fell in love with the people, she said.

"People are so down to earth and willing to help each other," she said. "I've felt welcome since the first day I came."

Susan will have to wait until 2007 for Jeff to join her full time in Craig. He is completing his work as senior vice president of Pulte Mortgage in Charlotte, N.C.

"He's looking for some business opportunities when he arrives in Craig," Stone said. "Until then, we'll be traveling a lot to meet each other."

In the meantime, Stone has the chance to spend some quality time with her daughter's boyfriend, Mike Spies.

"She was in California and I was in Texas before this," Stone said. "Now it's all three of us together."

Running the business

Stone said the first weeks at Serendipity have been fulfilling and challenging.

"We're trying to get to know every customer," she said. "Jason (the previous manager) knew by heart what everybody liked. Some customers come in and don't know the name of the drink because Jason made it for them automatically."

The shop retained cooks Joyce Becket and Vera Wells.

"We couldn't have made the transition without their help," Stone said. "Those two ladies have been saviors."

Although the family is learning the traditions of the small-town bistro, Stone has some plans to add her own flavor. She said that her real passion is tea.

"It will be great to hang out with some of the women of Craig," she said. "I'm going to introduce them to some great teas from around the world."

The tea tasting officially begins in February.

Also, she said she hopes to host tea-time birthday parties for the young girls of the community.

"How many times have you seen a little girl sit down for tea with her stuffed animals?" she asked. "We'll have that here, but her friends will take the place of stuffed animals and we'll have dress-up hats for them to wear."

There also will be some time for the young adults. On Friday nights, the shop will stay open for local music and a place to hang out.

"There aren't a lot of places for the younger people to hang out," she said. "We're going to have Internet and live music for them."

There also are plans to open a bookstore in the back room.

It will take some time to make those additions, but until then, Stone said she is satisfied with taking it all in.

"I'm still smiling after two weeks, so that's a good sign," she said. "We'll continue to find what customers want and please as many as we can."

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