Lisa and Ryan Olson live on a Greenacres farm with their four kids, chickens, goats, sheep and alpacas. The acreage reflected the Olsons’ priority for keeping two daughters and two sons (ages 10, 8, 6 and 5) outside and busy.
Outside the house and busy also happen to be priorities for Mom and Dad. As owner of Viking Homes, Ryan has no problem keeping items on his itinerary, but Lisa knew there would be a major void when the youngest started school.
“What I found was when my 5-year-old went into school all day, I was really lonely, and animals don’t talk back,” she laughed. “It took about 5 minutes a day to feed all the animals. And then it was like, ‘Man, what am I going to do?’ There are really only so many classes at the gym you can go to.”
Lisa found the answer in a longtime ambition. She bought a local coffee shop.
At 514 N. Barker Road, Cozy Coffee was located just blocks from home, allowing her to put in a full shift and still be out the door by 2:30 to pick up the kids after school. A Realtor friend inquired with Raymond Siegel, the founding owner of Cozy Coffee who developed the property in 2011 and opened to customers in early 2012. He was open to the sale, and the transaction was made in 2019.
Lisa couldn’t be more thrilled. While she has training and appreciation for great coffee, it was never about the product but about the people. She knows the vast majority of the customers by name.
“I absolutely love that,” she said. “It’s super fun for me, and that’s exactly why I bought (the business). When I leave here, I don’t want to leave. I could be here from the minute it opens to the minute it closes.”
Lisa said she strives for a Cheers-like environment. Her cast of regulars provide not only camaraderie but a sounding board for feedback and fresh ideas — whether it’s suggestions and insight from Alex and Gordon or taste-testing a new ginger latte with Keri and Diana, who play cribbage at Cozy every Wednesday and host a book club on Thursdays.
“I love everyone’s sense of humor,” Lisa said. “I love that everyone is able to josh around and have a good time. It’s so fun.”
The conversations, vibe and environment typical of coffee shops were her pull into the business, even if the coffee wasn’t. A tea drinker, Lisa said she actually loves coffee but is aware of its addictive qualities, something she is sensitive to after “a bit of an alcohol issue” many years ago. As a mother of two girls and two boys ages 10, 8, 6 and 5, she said she is extremely careful about anything that could create dependencies.
“Knowing myself and that habit – that addiction habit – I don’t want to suffer from coffee withdrawals or migraines or just wanting to have to have it,” she said. “I drink (coffee) for quality control, but when I drink it, I love it, so I know that I just can’t at this time. I don’t want to turn one addiction into another, even if it is just coffee.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t know her coffee. Lisa attended a week-long training for coffee shop owners at the Seattle Barista Academy, and she and her entire team have been through the local training provided by Cozy Coffee’s wholesale supplier, Thomas Hammer.
Lisa anticipated her coffee dreams long before they had four walls and a street address. Two years ago, she registered a business, Cream & Sugar LLC, with the Washington Secretary of State.
It was to be the name of her future coffee shop, “but when I bought Cozy, it really was the right name for it,” Lisa said. “It’s just cozy.”
As she talks, she is sitting in a nook immediately to the left when you enter her shop. She catches herself with a “no pun intended” laugh as she describes the “cozy corner” she redecorated and purchased new “cozy furniture” for.
While the word “cozy” fits the overall vibe, Lisa has found herself adding flourishes that accentuate the feel of the business as opposed to making large-scale shifts.
“I didn’t change much when I first took ownership, because Ray did a nice job,” she said.
Other than updates to the aforementioned “cozy corner,” she painted a wall, updated the logo and menus and added shelving and an eating bar using natural wood from a craftsman she admires from the Liberty Lake Farmers Market. She also plans to add a firepit among upgrades to the patio. Unlike many coffee establishments, Cozy Coffee is open till 7 p.m. and serves beer, wine and evening appetizers like nachos and quesadillas.
THE TOP PICK
Among a robust morning menu of muffins, bagels, burritos, wraps, biscuits and scones, the breakfast sandwiches are the most popular.
“We send a lot of sandwiches out the window, lots of sausage, egg and cheese on croissants,” Lisa said.
The meat of choice is grilled – not microwaved – in Cozy’s small kitchen.
“I’m very specific in the ways those are created,” she said.
While Lisa said she is still working on a signature drink, the daily special is a clear best seller, typically a 16-ounce latte with a rotating cast of flavors.
THE CULT FAVORITE
On her way back from the Seattle Barista Academy, Lisa scheduled a girls weekend with her sister in Winthrop, chosen in part because of a tip from a friend about a great organic roaster: Lariat Coffee.
She liked it so much, she now keeps a Lariat dark roast drip and, for fans of an organic cold alternative, “I just have a nice, smooth, dark cold brew on tap” that has a devoted following.
With the popularity of Lotus as a healthier energy drink alternative, Lisa has also developed a special partnership with Bob Burgess from the Seattle Barista Academy, who has his own energy drink similar to Lotus that she has branded as the Cozy Kicker Energy Spritzer.
On the food side, Cozy’s Bento Boxes have been embraced by the soccer mom crowd. The healthy snack features four containers featuring boiled eggs, cheese, almonds and grapes.
True to her people-focused theme, Lisa emphasizes not just the product, but the great relationships provided by partners like the aforementioned Thomas Hammer, Lariat and Burgess. She finds a similar connection to everyone she does business with, from the staff at URM (“like a second family”) to bread provider Franz (“it’s like a friendship”) to the Scone Ranger, where she admits a personal weakness for the cherry almond.
As her drink of choice, the ample tea lineup she offers from The Republic of Tea was selected with purpose.
Her favorite business relationships, though, are the ones forged with her staff, all of whom stayed on from the previous owner.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” Lisa said. “Even though they could all be my daughters, their input and suggestions (are so valuable). … And we have a good time. We have fun.”
THE TIME WHEN …
If you’re a regular with excellent input, you just might inspire your own menu item – or two, in the case of Gordon.
“Gordy comes in every day,” Lisa said.
He inspired “Biscuits and Gravy Supreme” when he suggested adding some of Cozy Coffee’s burrito mixture to the biscuits before topping with gravy. But a certain 2.5-pound burrito stuffed with hashbrowns, crumbled sausage and gravy has literally become his namesake.
“The El Gordo is huge,” Lisa said. “If someone is going to pay $8.50, I want it to be a burrito!”
A burrito forged from input from a not-so-anonymous customer.
“I do like to have everybody taste and I love the input, so it’s great when I can attribute something to him, because he was a big part of it,” Lisa said.
514 N. Barker Road, Spokane Valley
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