STORY BY Kate Brosseau
PHOTOS BY Kenny Johnson
Creativity is hard to come by for niche venues. Once customers have seen a coffee shop, they’ve seen them all, so faithful customers are brewed from friendly baristas and a quality cup of java. But nestled in a space built in 1883 with a history of intrigue, Opera House Coffee and Food Emporium (500 Walnut St.) is serving more than coffee.
Classic Rock Coffee Shop is the anchor for this business collective, and as the name suggests, it serves coffee drinks and nutritious shakes named after rock legends and their songs. Fan favorites include the Dirty White Boy latte (white chocolate topped with mocha) and the meal replacement strawberry banana shake ($4.95), which is from the same muscle-building, healthful mix at Gold’s Gyms.
To the right of the counter, bakers whip up house-made scones, cookies and other morning treats behind floor-to-ceiling glass walls, so customers see the goods from mixing bowl to plate. The Sweet Dreams cookie ($2.50) is a gorgeous mixture of chocolate chips, walnuts and spices. Lightly puffed éclairs ($2.50) lure faithful dieters into indulgence.
Opera House co-owner David Anderson decorates the space with his quirky, nostalgic and even priceless collectibles from estate sales and his great grandparents’ barn. A stockpile of radios dating back to the 1930s bedecks the shelves alongside a vintage Mickey Mouse phone and a few croquet sets.
“It creates a fun, whimsical atmosphere where something captures the attention of different people,” Anderson says. “One couple was fixated on the old croquet sets while the kids are drawn toward the old toys.”
The purple walls, shiny guitars and old painting depicting the opera house in its glory days are all indicative of the eclectic crowd that finds more than caffeine at the Emporium. “We have a welcome, inviting place here,” Anderson says. “There will always be something new to look at and something new to try.”
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