Nov. 4, 2008 • New Janesville coffee house hopes to spark community revival

A new Janesville coffee house hopes to provide financial support for several families, kick start other commercial ventures and become a center for community activities.

Artisan Coffee, located at the intersection of Church Street and Highway 395 in the former Diggs Coffee building, is now open for business. The coffee house offers the usual coffee house menu of gourmet coffee, espresso and other coffee drinks, fruit smoothies, cookies and light snacks. For customers on the go, the newly remodeled coffee house even features a drive-through window.

Artisan Coffee’s Adam Fike, left, prepares a beverage for customer Susan Dustin who said she came in to get her “coffee fix.”

Austin Meinert and Adam Fike provide the vision behind Artisan Coffee.

“We got the building back up and running to support some local families,” Meinert said. “That’s where our efforts should be. We asked, ‘How do we get something going on?’”

The coffee house also features an art gallery for local artists to display their works. Works by Doyle photographer Robert Fike and potters Paul Herman and Isabel Judge are currently on display.

Meinert, whose family has lived in Janesville for 35 years, said the Diggs Coffee building was constructed in 2000 and opened in 2002. The business closed in 2006, and the building remained empty.

Diggs Coffee used the building as a site to roast its own coffee. The coffee roaster took up most of the floor space, and the building offered a small area for customers.

“We’ve been working for 18 months to get in here,” Meinert said. “When we first saw the building, Jeff Chew had just purchased it. We opened it up and pushed the counter back to take up the smallest footprint we could. Then we added the drive through window.”

Artisan Coffee’s Austin Meinert built this unusual display specifically to show off pottery. Meinert said he built the unit 11 years ago for an exhibition in Nevada City, Nev. entitled “Celebration of Sierra Woods.” The display is made from local incense cedar.

Ironically, Meinert said he was seeking other commercial space for his furniture business when he first looked at the building. Initially he didn’t intend to open a coffee house. He planned to use the building as a shop.

“The building was abandoned when Jeff (Chew) bought it,” Meinert said.

Coffee houses are always known for their great coffee, but Artisan Coffee doesn’t roast its own beans. Instead it purchases its coffee beans from the Reno-based Wood-Fire Roasting Company. Utilizing a unique process, the beans are roasted over an oak fire, and Meinert said the wood smoke mellows the beans and makes the coffee less bitter.

“We knew we needed a special roast,” Meinert said, “and this is a good fit for us.”

Customers may purchase coffee by the cup or pick up a bag of beans to take home with them.

The coffee house proudly features cookies made in Susanville by Kookies by Katy, a business Meinert characterized as “one of the only locally licensed bakers.”

Prior to opening, the owners met with local artists to help design the display area in the gallery.

Together, they decided to keep the long axis of the building as open as possible to create the most ideal space for exhibitions.

Janesville artist Crystal Keesey designed the Artisan Coffee logo, but the metal used for the sign came from recycled ¬scrap left over from the Diggs Coffee days.

“We plan to operate like a local art gallery,” Meinert said. “We’ll have different artists on a monthly basis. We plan to continue with that theme, displaying the work of local artists.”

The work of Janesville photographer Crystal Keesey, who designed the company’s logo, will be displayed during the month of December.

Long on vision but short on cash, Meinert, who also builds custom furniture, used recycled materials for tables and chairs in the coffee house. Meinert built all the furnishings in the building.

One large table was built from a recycled farm gate. Chairs feature old rebar. Even the company’s signage came from an old steel plate used for the roaster in Diggs Coffee.

The building features a large, steeply pitched roof supported by a large center column. While Diggs Coffee used the space above the bathrooms for storage, Meinert enclosed that area with canvas and plans to commission a mural painted by a local artist.

Plans for the future
Meinert hopes the coffee house and the nearby Pizza Factory might spark more commercial development in the area.

“We see this location as being more successful once we find a way to build out this spot,” Meinert said. “The environment is changing. We’re seeing a lot of people coming off the highway.”

The coffee house is located next to Janesville Park and the Honey Lake Riders Arena. The park, a pet project of Lassen County Supervisor Lloyd Keefer, offers a soccer, baseball and softball field for young athletes. Meinert said the Honey Lake Riders sponsor more than a dozen events a year.

Discussions with Lassen Land and Trails Trust may lead to a farmer’s market in Janesville on a weekday beginning in the spring. LLTT sponsors a farmer’s market in Susanville at the historic Railroad Depot on Saturdays.

The coffee house may even become a venue for “light acoustic acts” in the future, Meinert said.

Meinert also said the site may be ideal for a small, local grocery store with a bakery and maybe a deli.

He even envisions a small bank branch with an ATM so Janesville residents could take care of their banking needs without having to drive all the way to Susanville.

Artisan Coffee is open seven days a week — from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call (530) 253-3000.