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Coffee, passion and faith | Business

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Coffee, passion and faith
Coffee, passion and faith

For people who love the great outdoors, Sandpoint and the surrounding area has everything they would want.  From the shining water of Lake Pend Oreille to the slopes of Schweitzer to all the back trails and country roads there is something for everyone.  There's just one thing missing: Jobs.

"The only way to find a job here is to start a business," said Angela Reese, owner of Kokanee Coffee located on 5th Avenue in Sandpoint.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Bonner County is currently 8.6-percent.  That's down from 13.1-percent in March of 2012 and a high of 14.6-percent in March 2011.

Angela and her husband Jim grew up in nearby Newport, Washington and were high school sweethearts.

"Sandpoint was our playground," said Reese. "We were always over here."

Like many kids who grew up in Pend Oreille and Bonner County, they moved away after high school graduation for higher education and jobs.

But for 19 years, the mountains, the lakes, the trees and the river of their childhood called to them.

Jim is an artist and Angela worked in the IT industry in Olympia, Washington. Despite a downturn in the economy, the two decided it was time to come home.

"What kind of people leave two perfectly good jobs to open a coffee shop?" asks Angela. "It takes faith."

So the couple put their Olympia home on the market, loaded their son and Great Dane into a fifth wheel and moved to Sandpoint. They opened Kokanee Coffee in the Panhandle Mill Plaza ten months ago.

"People think it's a franchise because it looks so cool," said Angela. "But it looks that way because my husband is such a great artist."

Kokanee Coffee definitely has a big time, polished look to it that may cause people to think it's more than a locally owned coffee shop.

"He takes anything and can make stuff," said Angela.

Angela and Jim have discovered that opening a coffee shop isn't as easy as it sounds.

"A three dollar coffee is a big expense in this economy," said Angela.

Kokanee Coffee is not only trying to compete in a town saturated with coffee shops but it's also battling the rising costs of everything related to doing business.

"When you open a business you need to triple the cost of everything," said Angela.

Angela says the average coffee shop has about 250 customers a day.  Right now Kokanee is averaging only 104 a day.

So she and Jim are focusing on making their coffee shop stand out from the rest.

"We roast our own coffee so it's low acidity, it's dark, it's bold, We have homemade soups, pastries and wraps," said Angela. "When you have a passion for something, it comes out."

Life is a struggle right now for the Reese's.  Their home in Olympia has been on the market a year and a half and the business cost more than expected. But you don't have to look any further than the coffee shop's Kokanee fish logo to find the reason the two are determined to make a go of it.

"The fish represents our faith," said Angela. "If you want to live here, you have to make sacrifices."


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