A blog about food
A Traditional Coffee House and Gallery
For some people, a coffee shop is not just about coffee. Sure, everyone enjoys a ritual morning cup of something steaming, toasty and delicious—a perky "wake-me-up" to start the day off right. But for many, a coffee shop’s roots touch much deeper than that.
For Nicola (Nikki) Potts, owner of The Coffee Grinder and Gallery on 4th Street in Ketchum (more commonly “The Grinder”), a real coffee house is “a community center.” She said, “I feel other multinationals have broken away from that idea, but it has to be indigenous to the area, it has to be small and intimate enough that people converse and talk. When you think of European coffee houses, they’re all talking politics or sports or whatever, and we try to keep that kind of local voice active.”
And that voice can be heard when you walk in the door. Patrons sit and work at the bar, making business calls between sips of coffee, waving and smiling at the other regulars. The atmosphere is small and quiet, but tight-knit—friends and strangers talk about skiing, about the weather, about the weekend. One man even jumped in a conversation to ask another man his name and said, “I think your package was mis-delivered to my house the other day. Sure, I’ll hold onto it until you can pick it up.” And then they sat chatting for another half hour.
At times, it feels so intimate that you forget you’re in a coffee shop and daydream of a family living room, especially when Ozzie, the next-door dog from Ozzie’s Shoes, comes wagging over to rub up against your leg and beg for pets.
“What keeps me here is the community, so I try to have that in my business. Even the dogs feel at home,” she said laughing and pointing to a dog on his back, basking in the sunlight pouring through the window. “That says it all.”
There is even a doggie regular that strays all the way from Board Ranch, a few miles away, to get his daily dose of “hugs and kisses and espresso,” Nikki said.
When she first bought The Grinder from local artist Debbie Edgars in 1982, Nikki said it was one of the only coffee houses in Ketchum. There were two girls who made cappuccinos in the old Louie’s building, who Nikki said she admired “for their entrepreneurial and adventuresome spirit,” but The Grinder is the only one that has remained downtown for almost 36 years. “She [Debbie] started this as a real art endeavor and a true coffee house. And I feel I’ve kept the integrity of that,” said Nikki.
There are rotating art exhibits hanging in the shop every few months, a tradition that Debbie started and Nikki has continued. Local featured artists include Charlotte Woodham, a nine-year-old from the Pioneer Montessori School, and Korean painter and photographer Devon Lind. The upcoming exhibition will present Idaho “Landscapes” by Rachel Teannalach—proceeds to benefit Advocates for the West. “Our motto is ‘real coffee, real community, real purpose,’” said Nikki. “Every art show has to have a purpose, and part of their work is always donated to a charity.”
As for food, the menu consists of “home-baked goods with wholesomeness in mind,” said Nikki. And although the Grinder is touted as a “vegetarian and vegan” restaurant, “it’s not so strict,” she said. “There’s an assortment of options—some of its vegan, some is gluten free, some of it is low-fat. But most of our goods are very healthy—not a lot of sugar, oats and buttermilk, yogurt and things like that. It’s just ‘Think Healthy.’” The Oatmeal, for example, has walnuts, brown sugar, butter, bananas and berries or raisins (and it’s delicious).
To sip, everyone should try the “Grinder Cappuccino” at least once in their life—it’s seven minutes of heaven par excellence. “It’s our signature drink,” said Nikki, with rich espresso, hot chocolate and hand-whipped whip cream. “I’ve had people call me from Paris to tell me how much they miss it.”
Their coffee, from Caffé Vita, is not only organic and free-trade, it’s “Farm Direct.” “I believe this is the new trend in business,” said Nikki. “Organic-certified tends to put small farmers out of business because they can’t afford it. In this way, you cut out the middle man, it’s more equitable and you also build relationships with the farmer you’re buying from, which is what The Coffee Grinder is all about—relationship-building,” she said as she walked over the scratch the belly of a lounging dog.
And the relationships built here extend out into the Valley, connecting a network of deep roots throughout the community. At its heart, the Coffee Grinder is not just a coffee house—it’s a place where local voices live.