Usual customers of the longstanding coffee shop Taos Java, located a block south of Walmart, might be happy to hear the location reopened in mid-August of 2022 under new ownership.
Groovy doors open into a welcoming coffee shop that some customers have described as a “warm hug,” according to owners Clark and Tanya Sumner. A warm fire crackles in the corner as guests enter a creative interior design curated by former owner and artist Donna Martínez, who passed away in 2017. Clark greets guests with energy and a limerick, providing them with positivity, which they can continue to feed with the shop’s small library of spiritual literature.
The couple of 62-year-old Californians retired in Taos not even a year ago, but they looked into purchasing Taos Java only a few months later. The caveat was that neither of them knew the first thing about coffee. Luckily, they hired Brenda Martínez, Donna’s sister, who worked in the shop under the previous ownership.
In July 2022, when they had just begun leasing the shop, Tanya and Clark arrived early in the morning to practice brewing coffee. Unaware customers entered the shop, thinking it was finally open after the pandemic left the location closed to walk-in customers. Not wanting to waste the products of practice, the couple offered the coffee to these customers free of charge. Once they had some experience under their belts, the business went into full operation.
Largely designed by Donna, the new owners hope to maintain the atmosphere Martínez cultivated. Tanya and Clark didn’t change a lot, but they did rearrange the physical layout of the shop.
“[We] just brought it forward where it needed tweaking,” Tanya said, “but other than that, we’re just continuing the tradition that Donna started, and that’s the vibe that you feel.”
It’s true that Martínez’s fingerprint remains. Even her original wool weavings still hang on the walls, and all of the furniture she chose for the location is still where she left it, including funky wooden chairs and geometric doors. The bathroom was also designed by Martínez and is a particular source of pride for Taos Java, many customers commenting on it and even photographing it.
The overseeing duo prioritizes customer service, forming relationships with the people to whom they serve coffee. Customers are given a card with stamp slots, and once all 10 slots are filled, they get a free cup of joe on the house. The card itself isn’t wasted; it’s glued to the already-crowded “wall of fame.”
“People know they’re up there, and we know their drinks,” Clark said. “We know their drinks, the cars they drive, what they do; these are our friends. These are our local people.”
However, working in a coffee shop came with its set of learning curves. Tanya, whose background is in education and English as a Second Language teaching, was concerned about their reception among the locals, which ended up not being a problem. The Sumners make efforts to be involved with the community, volunteering for the fire department during the wildfires and participating in local discussions.
Clark worked as a paramedic in California for more than 40 years. For him, working in a coffee shop was a drastic career swap. As he reminisced on his time as a paramedic, he recalled the “tools and medications” he had to use on his patients in the back of a moving ambulance.
“Well, I felt stressed here with people in line and people at the drive-thru,” Clark said. “I really felt a stress here that I never felt as a paramedic. I was out of my element here until I realized all the machinery here are my tools, and the coffee and such is the medication, and [the customers] are my patients. And it’s tight quarters behind the counter back here — we’re passing each other, getting milk and slingin’ coffee. I realized I’m in the back of my ambulance, and I started feeling more comfortable.”
Taos Java is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday, and from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday. The shop is located at 1006 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, across the street from the Don Fernando Hotel.
Glad to see it re-open.
This was a very well-written article. I like the writer's style - it flows and segues seamlessly from one paragraph to the next with supporting clauses adding interesting detail. And it is rare these days to find an entire article without errors in punctuation, spelling and grammar - even in professional publications. Kudos to the writer and editor!
Tanya & Clark are so incredibly pleasant and caring. Welcome to Taos and Godspeed!
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