New Neighborhood Shop Hits Its Caffeinated Stride
By Brad Carlson Photos Jim Peterson
For more than a decade, local businessman Larry Ralston had been a loyal customer of the Starbucks on East Plaza Drive. When the Starbucks moved to a new location with a drive-through lane, the old regulars began nudging Ralston to reopen a coffee shop in the old East Plaza Drive location. Larry and his wife Sandra Borbonus-Ralston took their advice. Recalled Sandra, “His friends kept saying, ‘Why don’t you open a coffee shop in the old location? We will all come back.”
Eagle River Coffee has been pleasantly surprised by the buzz surrounding their new shop, which opened June 1, 2017. After a slow start, which gave the owners a much-needed soft opening to refine their procedures and offerings, the shop hit its stride at the 90-day mark, drawing a mix of neighborhood friends and passersby, as well as new regulars—local workers, business people and students.
The Ralstons were stringent about their consistent product quality and the customer service experience, so establishing employee-training protocols for their seven employees was one of their greatest challenges. While many of their new hires had experience from working in other coffee shops, those skills didn’t necessarily align with the Ralston’s vision for product and customer experience consistency. Once they developed a training manual, “It worked out well,” Sandra said. “Everyone has been really supportive and complimentary of our coffee, decor, food items and our customer service.
The Ralstons brought years of combined business experience to the new enterprise. Sandra was seasoned in real estate and banking, while Larry’s background was in residential construction and development. Together, they worked hard to remodel the space and turn it into a welcoming ambiance, fusing bright, open modern touches with tried-and-true functionality. Two farm-style tables situated near the back of the shop serve as meeting spaces for several groups. “I was surprised at how it all came together. It has been a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding, satisfying and comforting,” Sandra elaborated.
Sandra or Larry usually can be found at Eagle River Coffee, with Larry typically arriving at 6:30 a.m. to visit with customers. They both seek regular feedback from customers as they roll out new menu options, artwork for the walls and in-store events. “We always like knowing what our customers prefer,” Sandra said. “We look forward to always improving and offering new products. We plan on being here a long time.” To visit Eagle River Coffee, please visit 228 E. Plaza Drive, Suite A in Eagle.
To learn more, please visit their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/eaglerivercoffee/.