Area coffeehouses serve as escape

Owner and operator of the Lordsburg Coffee Roasters since last September, Craig Walters serves a lot more than coffee. At Lordsburg, one can get everything from iced cappuccino to various grilled sandwiches. / photo by Brian Murphy
Owner and operator of the Lordsburg Coffee Roasters since last September, Craig Walters serves a lot more than coffee. At Lordsburg, one can get everything from iced cappuccino to various grilled sandwiches. / photo by Brian Murphy

by Christie Reed
Editorial Director

Blues music wafts through the small shop. The atmosphere is casual and noticeably content as circles of friends sip drinks and converse the evening away.

This is the typical atmosphere at Lordsburg Coffee Roasters and many other coffee shops in the Inland Valley. This carefree, open-minded aura brings in people of all ages and keeps them coming back.

“The trend of coffeehouses over the last 10 years is a result in the decline of alcohol consumption,” said Craig Walters, owner of Lordsburg. “It is also a social atmosphere.”

The age of the crowd at Lordsburg depends upon the time of day. Since the shop is near the University of La Verne, students, staff and faculty members frequent the shop during the afternoons, but weekends bring a new range of customers, especially on music nights.

Friday nights, Lordsburg tries to host musical performances, such as blues, jazz or acoustic guitar.

Last Friday they hosted Tobacco Road, a local blues group consisting of the trio Jeff Masters, Jim Clem and Bill Myrvold. The band agrees that coffeehouses are a great place to play.

“In bars and clubs, people are rowdy, drunk and all they want is loud noise,” said Masters. “[In coffeehouses] we can play at a lower volume and in a better environment.”

Historically, the concept of small talk and flavored coffee has existed for over 400 years. Coffee shops used to be a place to exchange ideas, gossip and even to conduct business transactions.

“Coffeehouses were also big in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s; maybe the recent trend is a throwback to that,” said Masters.

Walters also attributes the rise of coffeehouses to the increased availability of high quality coffees.

“We have between 10 to 12 different coffees, and none of them are flavored. We add the flavoring ourselves.”

Coffeehouses feature a wide assortment of coffees from all over the world.

“Some like smooth, mild flavor and some like their coffee to be darker and richer,” said Walters. “We even have decaf.”

One aspect of Lordsburg that is not typical of coffee establishments in the area is its wide range of loose-leaf teas.

Traveling through Claremont, Upland or La Verne on any commute, people will see various coffeehouses with different titles and decor, but the differences do not stop there.

Boomers Espresso Cafe in downtown Upland caters to such a wide range of customers, owner Lance Bennett has a hard time determining the average age of the crowd at his 1950s style establishment.

“The ages range from college students to 70-year-olds,” said Bennett. ”I gear mine to students, business people, housewives and people from my generation, the baby boomers.”

The bright peach and turquoise walls blend well with the chrome collectibles dating back as far as the 1930s. The antiques, which are priced by Bennett’s wife Gale and are for sale in the shop, give an atmosphere of a different era.

Bennett said of his place, “It was from the heart. We both have a love for old things and we go to antique shops and swap meets every month.”

Fifties comic strips and science fiction memorabilia also line the walls. Magazines, games and dictionaries are provided for customers.

Boomers prepares their coffee a little different than other coffeehouses.

“We do our coffee Italian style, which means we use the same amount of foam but different amounts of milk,” said Bennett.

He feels that his establishment is like a lounge, because patrons do not get drunk and minors are allowed.

“This is just what society is calling for these days,” said Bennett.

Pomona also has its share of coffee outlets, and one that attracts a crowd of indescribable diversity is The Haven Coffeehouse and Gallery. Owner Ken Bencomo feels that there is one word that explains the recent popularity of the coffeehouse—escape.

“Basically, I think people need an escape from everyday life and coffeehouses serve as getaways,” he said.

Bars and restaurants, which used to be the only real hang-outs, have become mainstream.

“I would always be told I have to leave or order something more,” said Bencomo.

The Haven is a “building with personality.” There is a main room and law library which can seat 65, a patio and a pool room. There are couches, big tables and wooden chairs.

“There is nothing un­inviting about our place unless you’re a racist,” said Bencomo.

Race rarely becomes an issue at the Haven because if anyone judges another they are kicked out.

“That is the only rule that there is, otherwise everything goes,” he said.

Summarizing the typical crowd was not an easy task.

The night crowd consists of college students of every race, sexual and religious preference. There are also kids with their parents, and high school students.

The Haven also facilitates 12-step programs, a common thing among many coffeehouses.

Many coffeehouses, in­cluding The Haven, serve as creative outlets.

“It is a place for writers, painters and artists to network,” said Bencomo. “For many years, people were not friendly to art.”

The Haven is known for drawing the alternative crowd, while others such as Lordsburg serve a quiet campus community. Boomers caters the young and old alike.

“Coffee is like wine. There are a whole wide range of tastes,” said Walters.

Coffeehouses cater to different tastes, but all serve similar purposes: to provide a little music and coffee, a social atmosphere and an alternative to bars and nightclubs.

“It is so exciting to see a foursome of folks in their late 60s come and chat after dinner,” said Bennett. “It gives them the opportunity to interact with high school students.”

Coffeehouses even close the generation gap a little.

Christie Reed, Editor in Chief
Christie Reed
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