By Don Nelson
You’ve read it before, several times in the past few years: Java Man Espresso, the tiny coffee shop and burrito café in Winthrop, has changed hands and the new owners are enthusiastic about prospects for the long-time fixture on Bridge Street.
The familiar Java Man moniker (for a short while it was called Java Mama) is now passing into Methow Valley lore. In its place is a remodeled, refurnished and renamed coffee shop that will offer not only espresso but also freshly made sandwiches and other menu items featuring organic ingredients.
Kind Grinds Espresso Bar and Cafe recently opened in the Java Man space under the ownership of husband-and-wife team Bolo Dimodica and
The couple are likely known to many valley residents as the owners of Manja Pizza, a mobile food business that offered wood-fired pizzas at various locations including the farmers markets and the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival.
Dimodica and Starr enjoy the pizza business, but with a new coffee shop to run, kids to look after (Starr has two children from a previous marriage) and a baby due soon, they’re not sure that Manja Pizza will continue making its rounds this year.
Before Starr and Dimodica started renovating, Java Man had been dark since previous owner Kellen Northcott closed the shop several months ago. Northcott had done a lot of upgrades in the shop but more remained to be done.
The couple spent a considerable amount of time and investment getting Kind Grinds ready. There is new flooring (replacing three layers of sub-flooring), lighting, tables and chairs, artwork and improved mechanical systems including plumbing and electrical. Donna Keyser created the shop’s new sign from a design by Starr.
Dimodica and Starr appreciate Java Man’s heritage, but also are ready to leave it behind. “This is not the Java Man,” Starr said. “It was something that needed to be retired. It’s the same space with a different business plan.”
There will be no burritos, but take-out sandwiches (including the breakfast variety) are prepared fresh every morning. “We want to have quality food ready to grab and go,” Starr said. “It’s healthy and fast.” Soup is also on the winter menu (it’ll be smoothies in the summer). Plans call for serving pastries made by the Okanogan Bakery.
Kind Grinds serves Blue Star coffee, and its baristas are trained at Blue Star headquarters in Twisp. “We want people to have a Blue Star experience in Winthrop,” Starr said. “Consistency is what we want, no matter how long it takes to get it right.”
With its small footprint and just three tables, Kind Grinds doesn’t intend to compete directly with other shops such as Rocking Horse Bakery, but rather draw a mix of clientele from locals and visitors alike.
Familiar with the valley
Dimodica, who said he had visited the valley often since childhood, moved to the Methow from Ohio a few years ago to be closer to his father and sister. “I never thought I’d move here” from Ohio, where he had been a glass blower, Dimodica said. In the Methow, he worked a various jobs and trained as a river guide.
Starr, who grew up in Seattle, also frequently visited the valley with her parents, who have a second home here. Her degree from Prescott College in Arizona was in early childhood education. While in college she began doing yoga instruction, which she has continued. Starr lived in San Diego, New Zealand and England before eventually settling in the Methow Valley. She has worked steadily in the restaurant business, including the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop, and did silk screening as well.
They describe themselves as “water people” who love the recreational opportunities that the local rivers and lakes offer. They also are enthusiastic skiers — favoring alpine but also taking advantage of the Nordic trails.
Experience in the community has been helpful in hiring. Starr said she and Dimodica found exceptional local employees and “treat them well to build a good team … we want to be a good model as an employer.”
“It’s worth it as an investment,” Starr said. “Our business plan is, ‘if you build it, they will come.’”
“We want our clientele to love what we do,” Starr added. “We want to deliver what the community needs, and we’re learning as we go.”
Kind Grinds is open six days a week (Monday through Saturday) from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. The shop will be open every day in the summer.