Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times A group of women who call themselves “The Ladies of the Downtown Pool” regularly make The Daily Grind a part of their “swimming and sipping” routine. They are one of about a dozen groups of senior citizens that prefer meeting there to chat, play cribbage, do crossword puzzles and “solve the world’s problems.”

Popular Oak Harbor coffee shop closing after 24 years

Tammie DeRosa tracks the days of the week from behind the counter at The Daily Grind by looking up and seeing who’s coming in.

The wet heads of the Lady Swimmers? Must be Friday.

Ladies with knitting needles? Wednesday.

Ladies prone to demonstrations of affection (she calls them “the hug/kiss ladies”) means that the Monday church group is here and it’s going on 11 a.m.

The so-called “BS Club,” the group of men and women solving the world’s problems over a cup of Joe? Well, that could be any day, any time.

But soon there won’t be any groups of loyal senior customers to greet, no cups of coffee to fill, no breakfast or lunch orders to make.

AFTER TWO dozen years in business, The Daily Grind is scheduled to close March 31, when its lease with the city is up.

Many of her loyal patrons are upset that city officials haven’t helped the shop relocate as DeRosa says had been promised.

“It’s a shame the city doesn’t see clear to do the right thing,” commented customer Brian Shannon. “It’s ridiculous.”

Located inside the old Whidbey Island Bank at 321 S.E. Pioneer Way, the building is scheduled to be demolished as part of Oak Harbor’s $100-million Clean Water Facility Project.

“It’s been like my baby,” Tammie DeRosa said of the business she’s co-owned for 10 years. She makes breakfasts, salads and sandwiches fresh to order and proudly serves Seattle’s long-established brew, Caffe Vita coffee.

“I know everyone and what they drink and we can usually have their drink on the table before they sit down.”

JUST ASK Betty Hubbard. She chatted away recently one morning with “The Ladies of the Downtown Pool,” a group of women ranging in age from 60 to 90.

“It’s just become a ritual for us coming here,” Hubbard said. “Every morning we swim from 8 to 9 a.m. and we usually come here the end of the week. Everybody knows everybody. And it’s accessible for walkers, wheelchairs, even two blind gentlemen come in and Tammie takes care of them.”

Tammie and husband Michael DeRosa bought out former owners of the Daily Grind 10 years ago. It’s been an Oak Harbor fixture at one location or another for 24 years. Tammie manages the coffee shop and small kitchen with two full-time employees; her husband works in Everett.

The DeRosas say they knew the day of reckoning — and the wrecking ball — was coming. But the couple also say that they were told by various city officials they’d be assisted in their move and that they could sell coffee in the new facility.

“That’s what we were led to believe, that we’d be tenants,” Michael DeRosa said.

OAK HARBOR City Councilman Rick Almberg, a member of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Review Committee, denied that the city reneged on offers with the DeRosas. He also explained that the city cannot legally assist a private business.

“The city is really concerned and sensitive about peoples’ businesses,” he said. “From legal to administration to public works to planning, (Tammie DeRosa has) been in conversation with us.”

As for a place for her in the new plant?

“There has never been a plan that shows public rental spaces for kiosks,” Almberg said.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of it.”

LONG-TIME patron Sharrie Shannon said it seems The Daily Grind was being forced out without any compensation, such as a reduction in rent, assistance in relocating, or other help supposedly promised by officials.

“I don’t think they support small businesses like they say they do,” Shannon said as construction workers pounded away just outside her cafe window seat.

Shannon said she sat on juries that awarded small businesses damages from state and local jurisdictions “for less than what has been done to the DeRosas.”

The DeRosas said they tried to find a suitable place to relocate but nothing panned out.

“We’ve been looking for two years,” Tammie DeRosa said. “But at all the potential places we’d be hit with such a high remodeling fee for a kitchen, we couldn’t afford it.”

She plans to serve only coffee and other beverages the last two weeks; no more homemade soups, quiches and desserts.

FOR WEEKS, Daily Grind regulars have been flooding the shop, hoping to hear word of a better ending.

Jan McCollough and Marge Baxley belong to “Coffee Girls,” a group of eight friends devoted to the Daily Grind.

“Oh, we’ve been coming for years and years,” McCollough said. “We’re confused on the decisions of the city. Seems like they could have found some alternative for a parking lot.”

But parking isn’t the main reason the business needs to move, explained City Engineer Joe Stowell.

What’s going in next on the $100 million waste water project is a building called Odor Control, he explained, and it will be constructed on the parking area that’s now used by Daily Grind customers.

Utilities are also being placed right outside the door of coffee shop, Stowell said.

“We tried to put it off as much as we could but as soon as it showed up on the critical schedule then it’s at that point we have to (close the area.) It’s just not safe,” he said.

AFTER THE city purchased the Whidbey Island Bank property for $2.6 million three years ago, mostly for the parking lot, there was discussion about using the 35,000-square-foot two-story building, Stowell said.

“But it’s just not cost-effective to renovate it and it’s not earthquake proof,” he said. The building’s offices will continue to used by Hoffman Construction Company and sub-contractors until it’s demolished sometime in 2018.

The Daily Grind’s wraparound front window that once framed a calming view of water, windmill and Windjammer Park now serves as a front row seat to the growing innards of a sewage treatment plant.

Webs of raw metal rebar frame a foundation, more than 5,500 cubic yards of concrete already poured form columns of stone and Whidbey Island’s only construction crane stands 165-feet high at the ready for heavy lifting.

The facility is being built near the city’s existing sewage collection system; it’s designed to blend with Windjammer Park using plaza space, landscaping and elements of wood and brick.

CONSTRUCTION FOREMAN Tyler Krebsbach said he depends on the Daily Grind for his morning white mocha and his lunches. His favorites include the French Dip and Lumberjack with bacon.

“And the breakfast wrap is probably the best breakfast wrap in town,” he said.

“I’m really going to miss this place, the food and the people,” emphasized Krebsbach, cracking a big smile at employee Tiffany Webb.

“Who’s going to call me ‘hon’ every morning?”

BACK IN the day, before all the cranes and concrete mixers and muck and mud surrounded her establishment, DeRosa said she made “a big, big profit.” But once the construction crews moved in, business dipped by more than 50 percent.

“Now it just pays for itself,” she said.

DeRosa’s Daily Grind customers joke that they’ll be coming to her house for coffee after March 31. She doesn’t know where the various groups will eventually end up to sit awhile and sip and chat and pass the time.

Customers tell her other coffee shops are too expensive or too loud, she said as another forlorn senior moved in for a hug.

“A lot of them will be just crushed.”

 

Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Tammie DeRosa says she knew nothing about espresso machines or managing a commercial kitchen when she and her husband bought The Daily Grind ten years ago. Unable to find a suitable and affordable place to relocate they said they had no choice but to close the popular cafe March 31. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times