QUINCY — A retired kindergarten teacher and her daughter have brought Seattle’s thirst for coffee to Quincy, and the popularity of their business has caused quite a stir along Maine Street.
Carter’s Coffee Bar, 3815 Maine, is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Saturday. May 1 also is the birthday for Debbie Carter’s husband, Owen, who died four years ago in Lake Stevens, Wash., after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.
“My husband never would have believed that I would have done this,” Carter said with a laugh. “I’m a school teacher. I’ve got to plan everything. I’d never been in the business area at all. This is a big stretch. But I guess I learned that life’s short, and this has just been a God thing. God has led us here. Ciara had the vision for this. We get to do this, and we get to give back to the community.
“At first, I was just hoping we’d have enough customers to pay our bills. But it has been crazy.”
Lotus drinks most popular
Carter’s daughter, Ciara Weese, got married five years ago to Douglas Weese of Camp Point and moved to Adams County. Weese worked at a coffee stand in Lake Stevens, and once Carter retired from teaching, she moved to Quincy to join her daughter. They spent a year creating the business plan for their coffee bar.
“There’s pretty much a stand like this on every corner,” Weese said of Lake Stevens. “There are hundreds and hundreds of stands.”
Carter’s Coffee Bar offers a line of teas and coffees made from beans purchased in Seattle, but the best sellers are the Lotus energy drinks made with green coffee beans. They are loaded with caffeine, antioxidants and vitamins that relieve stress, adaptogens that increase energy and resistance to stress; and super fruits with high quantities of antioxidants and polysaccharides.
“Nobody else has the Lotus drinks,” Weese said. “It doesn’t taste like coffee at all. Basically, it’s an energy drink, but it’s all plant-based. It’s all vitamins. It doesn’t give you that sugar high, and then you drop. You can add pretty much any flavor to it.”
Weese believes the service provided by Carter’s baristas keeps customers coming back.
“(The baristas) build relationships with the people,” she said. “You just don’t talk to a speaker to make your order. Our baristas know who their people are and what kind of drink they like, and if they have a dog in the car, they know the dog’s name. You don’t just get your coffee and have the (drive-through) window shut in your face.”
Krista Forbis, a nursing student from Barry, drives to Quincy at least three times a week for classes. She makes sure to stop by Carter’s at least once each time. Forbis also is married with four children, and the family makes frequent trips to Quincy as well.
“Last Sunday, before we even got (to Quincy), the kids were like, ‘Are we going to Carter’s?’” Forbis said. “They all start rattling off what they want. You can get the drinks without the coffee, and it’s literally like chocolate milk or flavored lemonade. We love it.”
The coffee bar has two drive-up windows, handling traffic off Maine Street from the east and the west. Carter’s off-street property has room for 11 to 12 cars, but long lines have spilled on to Maine Street in both directions.
Weese said the lines stretched to the Irish Hills neighborhood when the coffee bar first opened. Today, it’s typical at any time of the day to see a dozen cars waiting on four-lane Maine Street. Traffic from the east stays in the northernmost lane on Maine, while traffic from the west waits in the middle of the street.
Weese says she wants all traffic entering from the east.
“Then we’re not blocking both sides of the road,” she said.
“Our goal is to have no cars waiting in line on the street,” Carter said.
A sign for people driving east on Maine warns traffic ahead may be temporarily stopped. The northernmost lane for traffic heading west is painted with white lines (a no cross zone) to prevent cars from turning left into the property — yet cars still wait in that lane.
Traffic cones were placed in the west lane last summer but are no longer used.
Neither Carter nor Weese said they know of any accidents caused by the traffic backup, but Weese recalled watching an upset driver climb out of his car and start taking video.
“We had no idea we’d have lines like this,” Carter said.
Neither did city officials.
City planner Chuck Bevelheimer said Carter’s Coffee Bar met city space requirements for a drive-up window when the site plan was reviewed.
“The issue is (the cars) are backed up on traffic onto a public street,” Bevelheimer said. “I’m not sure why this is more prevalent at this location than other locations with drive-up windows. Rarely do we have this level of backup.”
He said owners of neighboring homes have called to report cars constantly using their parking lots and driveways to turn around, and owners of neighboring businesses say their parking lots are being blocked.
“(Carter’s) kind of had the right plan,” Bevelheimer said. “It’s just that I’m not sure operationally why it’s taking so long to turn over the cars in the drive up. The city is very well aware of the traffic snaggle. It’s a scenario we’re working on, and I think it’s going to come to a resolution soon.”
The unprecedented success of Carter’s Coffee Bar has led the mother-daughter duo to help fundraising organizations and not-for-profit agencies by donating percentages of their daily sales. That success also has them considering a second location in Quincy.
Weese gave birth to twins earlier this month, but her mother calls her a “go-getter” and supports the idea of another coffee bar.
“We’re going through the process,” Carter said. “We would like to be on the (west) end of town, close to Blessing and Quincy Medical Group. We’ve got people who can take care of things at this location, so if we can do both, maybe our lines will be shorter.”
Then Weese added with a grin, “Well, not necessarily.”
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