It’s just shy of 10 o’clock in the morning on a recent Friday and the Daily Grind is buzzing.
Tammie DeRosa scans her cafe and sees familiar faces at every table. She then spots another coming through the door.
“OK, Miss Margaret,” DeRosa says cheerfully. “Are you having a Mocha Freeze?”
For seven and a half years, DeRosa has gotten to know her customers and their favorite drinks and caters to them as if they were members of her own family.
It’s during that span that she and her husband Michael have owned the small cafe, which is tucked away in downtown Oak Harbor, facing the iconic windmill, with City Beach Street as the easiest access.
It can be a bit of a lonely existence at times inside a mostly unoccupied building that once housed a large number of Whidbey Island Bank employees who frequented the cafe.
But despite its quiet surroundings, the Daily Grind is no secret to locals, especially during breakfast hours when the morning rush comes in, then again at lunch.
“There are a lot of regulars,” said Margaret Galbraith of Oak Harbor, who comes every Friday morning for her Mocha Freeze. “A lot of hometown people.”
On this particular Friday morning, every table was taken as 29 customers sipped their drinks and engaged in lively conversation.
Galbraith, an Oak Harbor business owner, met for coffee with Jan Hughes, an instructor at Skagit Valley College, as part of a Friday morning routine.
Such routines are contagious at the Daily Grind, which is a gathering spot for knitting and walking groups and various clubs.
Galbraith said the atmosphere is much like the one in the television show, “Cheers” where “everybody knows your name.”
“This is an institution,” Hughes said, “and what keeps it going is Tammie. You can get coffee all over this town.”
“We like the atmosphere and friendliness,” Galbraith said. “Tammie is very gracious.”
DeRosa works six days a week at the cafe, which is open every day except Sunday.
Business hours are 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., except for Saturday when it is open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“There’s a lot of work involved with running a restaurant,” DeRosa said, “and I love every bit of it because the clientele we have coming in here is just priceless. We have retired senior citizens who are the nicest people, the most understanding people. I can’t say enough about these people. It’s like my second family. I just love them to pieces.”
DeRosa used to run a cleaning business in Spokane before she worked in retail. She was glad to have another opportunity to operate a business and couldn’t imagine a better one than what she has in the Daily Grind.
Customers have noticed her compassion as she tends to keep a watchful eye on some of her elderly patrons and checks on their well-being even after they’ve left her cafe.
DeRosa likes to help and believes in karma. Her mind rarely strays far from her own 93-year-old grandmother, who lives independently in Clarkston, near Spokane.
“I take care of these guys not just because I want to,” she said. “I’m also hoping somebody will be nice enough to help her if she ever needs it without taking advantage of her.
“I kind of think God’s going to take care of her because I’m doing good things.”
And she hopes to have the opportunity to continue to do so for a long time.
She is hopeful but uncertain about the future of her restaurant’s location after the City of Oak Harbor purchased the building from Whidbey Island Bank earlier this year with plans for a new wastewater treatment plant in the immediate area.
“I’ve been here so long, I do hope we stay here,” DeRosa said. “My customers are used to it. They don’t like change.”