ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Operating The Daily Grind is-a daily grind.
“It lives up to its name, we’re here a lot,” said manager Kym Thompson, who works with husband Troy to provide specialty coffees, beverages, pastries, desserts and now soups and sandwiches at their Marion coffee house.
“I’m here from 6:30 in the morning until at least 10:30 at night, except for a couple of nights when we have some people who come in and help,” she said.
“Troy works all day at the post office and then usually comes in and works at night with me. So yea, we’re tired.”
Is The Daily Grind worth it?
“Absolutely, it’s definitely worth it, because we’re reaching out,” she said with a warm smile.
“There’ve been cases where I know we’ve touched an individual-certain students and certain adults-you just know they came in with something to say and get off their shoulders. I don’t know why, but I just know the atmosphere is right here.”
In August, the couple began operating the coffee house as a ministry and have never considered themselves the owners.
“God’s the owner, we’re just managing it,” Thompson said. “Everybody who works here is volunteering. The money goes back into getting the place stocked and running like it should.”
Thompson initially did not accept a salary. “But I am now-when a salary is available,” she said. “There have been weeks that I have not.”
When the coffee house first opened, Thompson was trying to work at her day job as a para-educator at the Oasis school in Florence. She decided to quit three weeks after school started and devote all her time to the restaurant.
“We were closing here during the day, and it was disappointing to people,” Thompson said.
“I would run home from there, come in here, and work all night. We just felt the way to give this a better chance (to succeed) was for us to be open all the time. And it was definitely a good choice.”
Each day, four large pump pots are filled with regular, decaf and two specialty coffees, such as the crowd favorite-carmel rum crunch.
As in typical modern-day coffee houses, the restaurant offers cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and flavored coffees. The beverage menu also includes Jones Soda from Canada, fruit blasts and blended ice coffee.
For patrons who don’t drink coffee, they can have cocoa or a steamer.
“It has no coffee in it,” Thompson said of the steamer.
“It’s the steamed-milk part of a cappuccino, and then you add any flavor that you like. You can add chocolate, and it would be like having a hot cocoa. If you add vanilla, or caramel, or butterscotch or any of those flavors, you have a hot drink, and it’s really good. For anyone who doesn’t like coffee, any flavor is awesome.”
During the first week of October, the Thompsons expanded their menu and included soups and sandwiches.
“The soups are homemade,” she said. “They taste better that way. I hear so many people say they’re glad it’s not the frozen stuff or canned stuff you put in a big kettle.”
This winter, customers can count on a regular schedule of soup offerings. On Tuesday, broccoli and cheese is available, Wednesday is baked-potato soup, Thursday is cook’s choice, Friday is Santa Fe corn and sausage and on Saturday, it’s cook’s choice.
“And we always have chili,” Thompson said.
Whether it’s chili or soup, a large bowl of about 16 ounces is $3, and a half-portion is $1.50.
Three sandwich choices are available-ham, turkey or roast beef-served on a croissant sandwich bun and topped with colby-jack cheese. A sandwich is $3.
“If I have time, I’ll also make a chicken salad,” Thompson said.
“I do have chips but mostly, people order the two together-soup and sandwich. It’s a lot to eat together.”
Thompson strives to have the lunch menu items ready by 11 a.m., when the crowds start coming in. Patrons looking for a light evening meal, can order chili, sandwiches or soup-if there’s any soup left in the pot.
“One thing about soup is it just gets better as it simmers,” Thompson said. “So if we have it, we’ll just serve it on into the evening.”
Regular volunteers are invaluable, the couple said. And they invite others to call and donate their time-to reach out in a safe and nurturing coffee-house environment.
“We have a couple from Hillsboro, a husband and wife, who come in and work for us on Thursday nights,” Thompson said.
“And then Erica Buller comes in on Saturdays. She teaches here in Marion, and we do a lot of baking together.”
Baking items include pies, such as pumpkin, banana and coconut cream, and muffins, cakes and tarts.
“And scones go really well,” Thompson said of the popular pastry selling for $1.50 each.
“We just keep trying different scones all the time. We don’t put the same scones out every day, because we want to make it interesting. You can make any kind you want. The girl who bakes with me loves to improvise, and it comes out great, like spinach and cream-cheese scones. I didn’t think that would go over, but it’s done really well.”
Seating about 22 patrons, the coffee house invites customers to enjoy conversation, listen to music and play games, such as chess, checkers and other board games. They can also enjoy singing with a new Karioke machine set up on Friday and Saturday nights.
In mid December, the band Acrostic donated an evening of musical entertainment at The Daily Grind.
“They wanted to help the ministry,” Thompson said of the band. “We had from 2 year olds to someone 75 in here. We had as many kids as adults. It was wonderful, and it was fun watching people sitting around, singing and having a good time.”
In addition to the musical group and staff volunteers, Thompson has received help from her sister, who comes in during her lunch hour to work. A local attorney often offers to work the cash register around the noon hour when it gets busy.
“And a Marion gentleman, who wants to remain anonymous, said he would donate the cost of free coffee to encourage others to come in and patronize the restaurant,” Thompson said.
“So starting on Wednesdays in January, from 10 to 11 in the morning, we’d like people to come in for free regular coffee and take their coffee breaks in here.”
Thompson was not a coffee drinker before she opened her restaurant, but now confesses to enjoying the beverage and even looks for recipes that include coffee, such as the following.
Coffee Butterball Cookies
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped nuts
Confectioners sugar for rolling cookie
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup confectioners sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.
Dissolve instant coffee and baking soda in water. Add to butter mixture with vanilla, and beat well. Stir in flour and nuts.
Shape into small balls, and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.
Roll each cookie in additional confectioners sugar while still hot. Makes about three dozen cookies.
“These are like the Mexican wedding cake ball-type cookie, except they have coffee flavor in them,” Thompson said.
For pie lovers, she offered the following non-coffee recipe.
Peaches and Cream Pie
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 small package vanilla pudding
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup milk
1 medium can sliced peaches, drained and liquid reserved
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons reserved peach juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease bottom of 9-inch pie plate.
(Note: for more “peachy” dessert, use one large can sliced peaches and bake in a 10-inch pie plate, Thompson said.)
Combine and mix first seven ingredients for two minutes. Pour into pie pan. Arrange peaches over batter.
Combine and mix cream cheese, sugar and reserved peach juice for two minutes. Spoon onto peaches, leaving 1-inch border.
Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle onto filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool and refrigerate.
“I’ve served this here,” Thompson said of the pie. “It goes over very well, and it’s a favorite of ours at home.”
Striving to continue her goal of operating a community-wide ministry, Thompson said she is glad the profits of the restaurant are helping others.
“We do have some ministries, some areas that we give, such as a girl right now we give to,” Thompson said.
“She’s going to a Christian school in Colorado. She has trouble making ends meet, so we donate money to her to help her every month.”
And why is The Daily Grind successful during these difficult economic times?
“I’d like to believe it’s because God has his hand in it,” Thompson said.
“And because we try to be friendly. I think that seems to be very important. We try to be friendly, and have a good atmosphere.”