Former Coppa Cafe co-owner Marc Wheeler and current owner Maddie Kombrink smile for a picture at the downtown cafe Wednesday morning. Last week the cafe celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Former Coppa Cafe co-owner Marc Wheeler and current owner Maddie Kombrink smile for a picture at the downtown cafe Wednesday morning. Last week the cafe celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

‘It’s a wonderful milestone’: Coppa Cafe celebrates a decade of service in Juneau

Ten years is just the beginning, says current and past owners.

When Coppa Cafe first opened its doors in 2013 its business model was simple — sell great coffee and ice cream.

Now 10 years later, the business has grown to be one of Juneau’s most popular downtown cafes, adding baked goods and healthy meals to its menu. Not to fret, though — the coffee remains just as great.

Baked good line the glass at the front counter at Coppa Cafe Wednesday morning. Last week the cafe celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Baked good line the glass at the front counter at Coppa Cafe Wednesday morning. Last week the cafe celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Last Saturday officially marked the business’s 10th anniversary in Juneau. A lot has changed since then, including the ownership. However, according to current owner Maddie Kombrink and original co-owner Marc Wheeler, the strength of the community’s support has never wavered.

[Former employee now calling the shots for popular cafe]

“It’s a wonderful milestone — so many businesses fail before 10 years,” Wheeler said. “I think it just shows the level of support from the community.”

On Wednesday morning, Kombrink and Wheeler shared a table at Coppa, which is located around the corner from the Hurff A. Saunders Federal Building. Surrounding them were more than a dozen customers sitting at their respective tables. Warm lights shone down and green plants hung from all corners of the small cafe space.

Since last December when Kombrink took over the business from Wheeler and co-owner Jessica Paris, there’s a few changes she’s made. She’s pushed for more grab-and-go food options and added plants to the cafe area — both positive steps in Wheeler’s books.

“I have a brown thumb,” he said, laughing.

Before the new role, Kombrink worked off and on at the business for about five years while also pursuing other opportunities. She said since taking on the new role as owner she’s felt “overwhelming community support.” Kombrink and Wheeler applauded the employees at Coppa and the unique additions they bring to the business.

“Coppa has evolved and I think it’s cool to see it grow to meet Juneau’s needs,” Wheeler said. “Everyone who has worked here brings their own passion — we started making donuts because the pastry chef loved donuts, the cook is from Ukraine so we make a lot of Ukrainian dishes — it’s fun to see people’s passions play out.”

Kombrink agreed and said everything goes back to having that level of support from the community to take risks like branching out in the menu or trying new things.

“I want to allow people to be able to follow their passions and do what they want, but I think that can only happen with support from the community,” she said. “Because if people weren’t open to it or accepting of it, it wouldn’t work. It’s kind of a two-way street.”

Wheeler now works for a local nonprofit called Spruce Root as a business coach. His job involves helping new businesses to grow in Juneau. He got emotional talking about what it means to see Coppa continue to thrive even after the difficult years during the pandemic, and now having it in new hands.

“When you have a small business it’s like having a child,” he said. “To see that child growing up and changing and maturing, it’s really moving.”

Looking to the future, Kombrink said she’s got big ambitions.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said. Ideas like adding more food options and increasing the amount of service come to mind, she said, but noted she wants to keep Coppa’s beloved “cafe vibe” in the forefront.

“I like the smaller sorts of services, you know, not full-blown dinner restaurant service, but more comfort food, things that are healthy and nutritious,” she said. “I’m really passionate about nutrition and adding things like vegan or gluten-free or that are different — just kind of creating more options for people is on my list.”

Both Kombrink and Wheeler extended their thanks to the community for allowing the business to continue to grow.

I just want to give a giant, giant thank you,” Kombrink said. “We’re still going to be here in more and more ways than one for sure.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651) 528-1807.

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