Maddie Kombrink poses in the lobby of Coppa Cafe where she is now the new owner after working as an employee on and off for the last five years. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Maddie Kombrink poses in the lobby of Coppa Cafe where she is now the new owner after working as an employee on and off for the last five years. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Former employee now calling the shots for popular cafe

New ownership takes over at Coppa.

Wasting time isn’t on the menu for the multi-talented Maddie Kombrink. After calling Juneau home for just six years, she’s taking over ownership of a popular downtown cafe.

“Not everybody gets this opportunity to step into such a well-formed role already in such an established company and business in Juneau,” said Kombrink. “It’s not something I take lightly.”

Local Juneau Cafe Coppa recently announced that as of Thursday, Kombrink, a former Coppa employee, would be assuming ownership from former co-owners Jessica Paris and Marc Wheeler.

Kombrink, who has a degree in biology, has worked for Coppa off and on for the last five years while also pursuing other opportunities. Kombrink said most recently she had worked for Coppa until April of this year when she left to take a job with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Medeia research vessel.

She’s also worked with Wild Oven as a professional baker while taking summer jobs as a chef on yachts throughout Southeast Alaska. Kombrink said she and her fiance Cory Hansen were just married last September and said that the decision of ownership came shortly after.

“Marc (Wheeler) came to me when he was thinking about moving on and selling the business to somebody, he really wanted it to go to a former employee, that was huge for him,” Kombrink said. “So, he came to me, and I’ve always thought of running some sort of coffee shop here in Juneau. My brain didn’t have that happening until 10 to 15 years from now, but when Marc came to me and said this is what he was doing, I kind of took it as a sign that I needed to seriously think about it.”

In a news release announcing the change, the former owners expressed excitement.

“We love Maddie, and we know she has the right skills and energy to bring Coppa to the next level,” Paris said. “Keeping the cafe in the Coppa family means the world to us.”

Added Wheeler: “We can’t wait to see what Maddie brings to the business in her new role.”

Originally from the Chicago area, Kombrink moved to Juneau to work on a troll-caught salmon tender in Pelican. According to Kombrink, after working in Alaska for a summer, she fell in love with Southeast and immediately put plans into motion to become a full-time resident.

“Coppa was actually my first job in Juneau five years ago. It was one of those types of situations where I was like, ‘Oh, I need a job, so let’s go work at a coffee shop and now here I am,’” Kombrink said.

While Kombrink said that for the most part she plans to maintain Coppa’s current menu and operations, in the near future, she intends to provide additional offerings to the cafe that can cater to the surrounding businesses for folks who are looking for a quick-but-nutritious meal to take on the go.

“The biggest thing right now, we’re just going to focus a lot more on quality and consistent coffee and customer service,” Kombrink said. “We just really want to keep going above and beyond everywhere else in town and just really trying to be top notch. But short term, I think we’re looking to expand on our food offerings. I want to do a lot more healthy grab-and-go options for people who work around Coppa.”

Kombrink said she’s excited for the opportunity and what the future may hold, but at the same time wants to remain realistic about challenges that are certain to present themselves along the way. In that regard, Kombrink refers to her many days of working with crews on the open seas and said there are a lot of comparisons to be made between running a good business and working aboard boats.

“I think the biggest challenge with anything regarding running a business is just maintaining a solid team with good morale,” Kombrink said. “It’s kind of like working on boats, if you have a solid crew, it makes every single task so much better.”

In addition to staying focused on maintaining outstanding management, Kombrink said that making sure people know that Coppa is still a community focused place where all kinds of people from within the community can gather and feel supported will always be of the utmost importance to her. And though she’s only been on the job officially for one day, she said she’s already been feeling the community’s love and acceptance.

“I just had a conversation with our pastry chef in the back and she was telling me, ‘We had a really busy lunch. Everyone was just buzzing in here.’ And it just means the world to me that people see the news and they come in because of it,” Kombrink said. “They see that I’m the owner and they’re excited, so they bring their business here, and it feels really good.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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