Tragedy can pull people apart or bring them together.
For the mother-daughter team behind Ripon’s newest coffee shop, it made them want to bring together an entire community. What they created in honor of their late son and brother is an inviting specialty coffee shop that serves artisan brews and scratch-made food from the heart.
Manteca resident Kristie Tate, 46, and her 25-year-old daughter Alexus Kearney opened Austin’s Coffee Crafters last month in the new Ripon Terrazza retail center at the corner of River and Ripon roads. The open, spacious coffee shop sits across the lot from Fina, valley chef John Surla’s new Italian restaurant.
Austin’s is named after Tate’s son and Kearney’s brother, who passed away two years ago. The 15-year-old high school freshman and athlete was out riding bikes with a friend when he was hit by a commuter train near his home. The sudden loss rocked the family, but through their tragedy they found common purpose in opening Austin’s.
“Alexus and her brother used to talk about opening a cool community space. My daughter is creative and artsy, and Austin was social and outgoing,” Tate said. “When you lose someone close to you like that, it changes your whole perspective. So we decided to make their dream happen.”
It took them almost a year to make Austin’s a reality. They decided to open in Ripon, where Kearney lives, and on the new retail complex being from the ground up. Their corner space allows them to have a drive-thru and large windows letting in natural light.
The inside has a mid-centur-meets-modern design, and a schoolhouse feel that came about organically. Tate spent 18 years working for the Stanislaus County Office of Education in Modesto overseeing its Child & Family Services division and her husband is a teacher at Sierra High School in Manteca.
Kearney, who studied design, handled a lot of the shop’s look down to finding all of its paintings at area thrift stores. Tate handles all of its baking, after years of making treats exclusively for friends and family. She also built a lot of the space’s wooden furniture and accent pieces, including its pastry case, long tables and wainscoting.
The theme, from library lamps and schoolhouse sink, extends to the menu as well. The Trade School offerings are its specialty drinks and Preschool menu features kid-friendly fare.
Austin’s also serves a small selection of sandwiches, which run $7.95, on valley-made Agape Artisan Bread and also offers breakfast items like bagels and yogurt bowls featuring house-made granola (from $5.50 to $7.75). Pastries range from scones to a thick biscotti and individually sized apple bundt cakes ($3 to $4). Food is served on wooden cutting boards and you can expect the menu to change seasonally.
But this being a coffee shop, it’s the coffee that remains the main event. You’ll find the favorites like cappucinos, americanos, mochas and lattes — the latter served with latte art on top for flare — which run $3 to $4.75. They also have house iced tea, lemonade, hot tea and Trade School specials. These include The Troublemaker (iced caramel latte) and The Librarian (half lemonade, half black iced tea).
The shop exclusively uses Counter Culture Coffee, a specialty coffee roasting company that specializes in sustainable sourcing and public education with headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. The company also has a roasting facility in Emeryville, where Austin’s receives its supply.
Austin’s also sells Counter Culture Coffee by the bag, as well as some other local products and hopes to add more. Sourcing locally is important for the pair, who want to foster community and highlight all the valley has to offer. In the future they also hope to hold their own coffee cupping, or tasting, sessions to bring more awareness round specialty roasting.
“It’s a lot more than just a cup of coffee. It’s about making sure the people growing the coffee can afford to live off their business and keep doing it for generations,” Kearney said. “And it’s about getting people to taste our coffee, and the quality of the coffee.”
Austin’s seats about 40 inside and has a large outdoor patio as well. Inside, a children’s area is made for playing with a dollhouse and toys for little ones to enjoy. They have 17 employees who work the morning and afternoon shifts.
Tate said the public response has been overwhelming. They went through some 50 pounds of coffee in its first two days. A public grand opening celebration is planned for all-day Saturday, Sept. 14, with music and other festivities. While they are open for breakfast and lunch now, the hours may change as the complex fills up with more businesses, Tate said.
Austin’s Coffee Crafters, at 222 River Road in Ripon, is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 209-253-0787 or visit austinscoffeecrafters.com.