Inside Copper River Coffee and Tea on a dry erase board, reads the phrase “If it weren’t for caffeine, I’d have no personality whatsoever.”
However, from the menu made of photographs to the room reserved for a coffee roaster, the locally owned shop packs more personality than a jumping coffee bean.
Copper River prides itself on using natural ingredients, the best equipment in the business and having knowledgeable baristas who deliver drinks to customers who dine in.
“I don’t even think Starbucks competes,” owner Scott Elledge said. “Our primary focus is on specialty espresso beverages as well as loose leaf teas. In regards to what is available in town, I think we are the best, and we’re only one of a few locations that has good quality loose leaf teas.”
Its prices are comparable to Starbucks’, with a medium coffee at $1.85, medium tea at $1.90 and espresso drinks in the $3 to $5 range. However, Copper River offers a student discount.
The shop also has a wide selection of smoothies and Coppercinos, which are similar to Starbucks’ Frappucinos.
“Instead of using industrial mix, we use ice cream,” Elledge said. “We freshly make espresso, use milk, ice and Ghiradelli caramel or chocolate, or whatever flavor it is.”
Copper River also uses glass mugs rather than paper cups.
Elledge spent the summer between his junior and senior years of college apprenticing in a coffee shop, where he worked for four or five hours each day for free. As a trade-off for his work, the owners taught him everything they knew about coffee and owning a business.
“If you want knowledge, you really need to work for free,” he said. “It’s so uncommon and so contrary to what we thought – we go to school to get a job, not to work for free.”
Upon graduating, Elledge worked in several coffee shops, before the owner of Kade’s on War Memorial offered to sell him the business.
Elledge has also added mahogany furniture, changed the menu and opened a back room, which provides a silent atmosphere.
Elledge is 25 years old, and the oldest employee of Copper River is 26. He said he thinks it’s a great place for students to study and hang out, and business has picked up significantly since students have been back in town.
“What I like is that everyone is in their 20s, so it’s led by a young-aged group,” he said. “It’s practically run by college students.”
As for owning his own business as a 20-something, Elledge said it’s “both exciting as well as frightening.”
He recommends Copper River’s specialty espresso drinks, specifically the blackberry vanilla brevia and cafe miel.
The shop also offers pastries, which are delivered twice-weekly from Diana’s Bakery and has live music “usually every Monday.” It also has free wireless Internet and a drive-through.
Copper River is located at 2535 West War Memorial Drive across the street from Target in the same strip mall as Famous Footwear.