Tastebuds: New coffee shop opens on the square

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 7, 2008

By Susan Shinn
Don’t be surprised if you get a sense of olfactory deja vu when you step into Tastebuds Coffee and Tea shop in downtown Salisbury.
Owners Kirk and Arba Knapp buy all of their fair-trade, organically grown coffee from Dixie’s Roasting Co. in China Grove. That business is owned by Demian and Candice Stewart. It’s an all-in-the-family effort as Arba and Candice are cousins.
At Tastebuds, 106 N. Main St., there are other delights for the nose and the eyes.
Kirk, 57, and Arba, 56, are bringing in fresh orchids from Hawaii, where they lived for 22 years ó to provide the “buds” in Tastebuds, if you will.
“We still have friends over there,” Arba says. “They’re beautiful, so why not? It makes the shop prettier.”
Arba, taking a cue from a favorite coffee shop in Hawaii, has brightly packaged candies for sale, too.
They make the shop prettier, too, Arba says ó and more colorful.
Arba loves color, as evidenced in the yellow walls and red ceiling.
The couple have spent the last couple of years remodeling the building, which they purchased from Louis Friesma over the phone while they were still in Honolulu ó sight unseen.
Arba’s mom grew up in Salisbury, and many family members still live here. One of her uncles found the building for her.
Candice, whose dad worked in construction, went to check out the building for herself.
“Buy it now,” she told Kirk and Arba.
Originally, the couples wanted a building they could buy together. The Stewarts would have a coffee shop on one side and the Knapps would have a wine shop on the other.
But Kirk soon decided that a wine shop required too much of a capital outlay. In the meantime, the Stewarts settled in China Grove ó and Arba broke her foot.
While she was recovering, Demian sent her different kinds of coffee to try ó from Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Ethopia.
When she tasted the Yirgacheffe blend from Ethopia, that’s when she was hooked.
“I like them all,” she says, “but this is the one that sold me.”
The Knapps are longtime coffee drinkers.
“I grew up smelling coffee every morning,” Kirk says.
The couple stayed upstairs, renovating their living space before tackling the downstairs. The previous client moved out in April. That’s when they started working on the shop.
“We had a mattress and blankets and that’s all we had upstairs,” says Kirk, a pretty upbeat kinda guy. “It was fun! It was an adventure.”
Less so for Arba, who says she had forgotten how cold East Coast winters can be. She and Kirk have spent their entire married life on the West Coast, having also lived in Washington and Alaska while Kirk worked with hardware stores.
Now they’re nearly ready to start this venture. Pending final inspections, they’re hoping to open this Friday to take advantage of the crowd in town for OctoberTour weekend.
All sales will be cash only.
The couple has discovered a parallel between fine coffee and fine wine.
The coffee they buy from Dixie’s is freshly roasted in small batches.
“When you taste freshly roasted coffee, it’s a completely different experience,” he says.
Coffee has evolved, Arba says. “It’s a specialty drink, it really is.”
Since they buy coffee from Dixie’s, their menu is virtually identical to the China Grove shop’s.
Customers can choose from among macchiatos, lattes and mochas, to name a few, as well as cold drinks such as smoothies, cappachinos and freezes.
One difference is the smoothie add-ins or boosters using vitamin and herb blends that you can get for an additional 50 cents.
There’s the Multivitamin Blend, the Energy Blend, the Fat Stripper Blend ó even the Hangover Blend.
The superfruit antiox smoothie is sure to be a big hit ó full of all sorts of berry juice including acai.
“It’s got a really good taste, and you know you’re doing something good for yourself,” Kirk says.
Although the couple does have family here, they’re quite spread out.
Son Aaron, 32, still lives in Hawaii. The Knapps have a grandson, 13, and granddaughter, 9.
But almost three years ago, Kirk and Arba decided the time was right to leave Hawaii and move east.
“It was time to do it,” Kirk says. “The real estate market was starting to soften and we knew we needed to sell our house. She found the building and everything just fell together. It’s been a good move.
“It’s nice to get back to a small down. It’s a really good place to be.”
What he didn’t foresee was opening a business in the middle of a fragile economy.
“It will come back,” Kirk says with confidence. “Everything does.”
He and Arba went with the Stewarts to a coffee show in Atlanta in summer 2007.
“It piqued my interest,” he says. “I enjoy talking to people. This is a great place to talk to people.”
Kirk and Arba envision their coffee shop as a hub of activity, much like Dixie’s is to downtown China Grove. Their future customers can’t wait.
“We’ve found there are so many coffee addicts in the downtown area,” Kirk says. “They’re clamoring for us to open. We love that.”
When Tastebuds does open, its hours will be 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
If possible, they’ll be open all of OctoberTour weekend.
“We want to serve the community,” Arba says.
They also plan to be open after Piedmont Players shows and other special events.
“We can be open when we want to,” Arba says.
For more information about Tastebuds, call 704-245-4134.