A new generation takes on an old coffee tradition by opening Kimball Coffeehouse

Madeline Dullum and her sister, Chloe, did not want to see the coffee shop where they worked, Kimball Espresso Cafe, close down as a new, chain coffee shop was being built in a nearby location.

They weren’t alone. Many in the Gig Harbor community was sad to see the cafe shut down after almost 30 years of serving gourmet coffee and treats on Kimball Drive. A few months later, the Dullum family decided to work with the previous owners of the shop, Fran and Steve Dreiling, to open the next generation of Kimball coffee.

Kimball Coffeehouse opened last week at 6659 Kimball Drive, with a new food menu, beer and wine list, and a fresh look on an old Gig Harbor tradition.

“It’s fresh and it’s spunky,” Madeline Dullum said. “It feels bigger and we have space for live music and we added pizza, beer and wine to our menu.”

Madeline Dullum and family worked for the last few months in secret to lease a space down the street on Kimball Drive from the cafe’s original location. After some serious elbow grease, new paint and decorating, the Dullum family is hoping to keep the tradition of coffee on Kimball Drive alive.

“We want to serve locally-sourced produce and give back to the community through a locally-owned cafe,” Madeline Dullum said. “We want to build personal relationships. The opposite of Starbucks.”

The old location's closure

Fran and Steve Dreiling bought Kimball Espresso Cafe in 2007 as a part of the couple’s retirement plan. The couple was planning on selling the shop after a decade of work. But when their landlord decided to lease space nearby to a national coffee chain, their plans changed.

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The coffee shop had been open since 1991 and weathered through an economic downturn and multiple ownership changes.

“We weathered the worst of what the economy had to throw at us when a lot of small businesses didn’t survive. We managed to scrap through and we’ve seen what we knew the business could do and grow,” Fran Dreiling said in a previous interview with The Peninsula Gateway. “We’ve worked really hard to maintain the small coffee shop feel and we work hard to maintain the quality of our product.”

Dreiling was told that her lease — which expired at the end of March 2017 — in the Pioneer Plaza complex would not be renewed. She received the information after she spotted a public meeting notice posted near the business park for proposed redevelopment and requested a meeting with the complex’s owner, William Driscoll of D.F. Holdings.

Chloe Dullum prepares a drink inside the recently opened Kimball Coffeehouse in Gig Harbor, Wash., on Thursday, April 5, 2018. After the Kimball Espresso was forced to close due to redevelopment of their building, the Dullum family purchased the business, moved it down the street, and reopened it as the Kimball Coffeehouse. Joshua Bessex

The proposed plaza redevelopment, according to the notice of public hearing sign posted on the property, included a standalone drive-thru restaurant, which she had been told would include a national coffee chain.

“They were very open that that included other coffee businesses. But it needed to be a national chain, someone who they felt anchored and drew business in. So that excluded us,” Dreiling said. “They said we would not be able to stay unless we changed our business format and became something that was not a coffee shop.”

Madeline Dullum, who had started working at the shop at the age of 16, said the idea that a national chain was going to take over her beloved place of employment angered her.

“I was devastated,” Madeline Dullum said. “The people who came in, the customers, were a unique group. My co-workers became some of my best friends. I had enjoyed going into work every day. The shop was here for 26 years and to have them close down because of a new chain was a slap in the face.”

When she expressed that frustration, her father, Mike Dullum, suggested the family rent a nearby commercial space for a new cafe. The Dullum family worked with the Dreilings to purchase the shop's used equipment and to go over the finances and operations.

The next generation

Mike Dullum, who has worked in the construction industry for decades, says he is a “glorified janitor”, but his daughters know his role in the new shop is vital for its survival.

“I don’t know much about coffee,” Mike Dullum said. “But the girls are teaching me. I think I am learning something new every day.”

Mike Dullum and his wife, Stacey, helped their daughters, Madeline, Chloe and Grace, secure funding for the shop. Stacey Dullum chose most of the decorations which include local art pieces, new furniture, pastel blue paint and giant bags of coffee. The shop is 300 square feet larger than the original location. The vaulted ceilings also make the space feel large and airy.

The entire Dullum family work shifts at the coffee shop along with two previous Kimball Espresso Cafe employees. The Dullum sisters convinced their dad to start serving his homemade pizza recipes for their menu.

“We love it when it’s pizza night at our house,” Madeline Dullum said. “Dad always wanted to own a pizza shop. We worked with the chef from Table 47 to help us revamp our menu.”

Kimball Coffeehouse serves the traditional coffee recipes from the old shop, adding local beers on tap, local wine and Neapolitan pizza. Madeline said they are going to source their produce and ingredients from local sources as well.

The recently opened Kimball Coffeehouse is located blocks away from the Kimball Espresso. Photographed in Gig Harbor, Wash., on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Joshua Bessex

The new shop includes a stage for live music. Madeline Dullum enjoys writing and playing music and Mike Dullum is a member of a five-piece band. They hope to make live music a part of the tradition on Kimball Drive.

The new shop was decorated with vases of fresh flowers, delivered by Gig Harbor residents who were excited to see their favorite coffee shop reopen.

“We are so grateful for the amount of support we received from the community,” Madeline Dullum said. “It’s been overwhelming the first week but it’s also been bright and fun.”

The Dullum family is working overtime to spread the word about Kimball Coffeehouse, and to keep up the work of the Dreilings.

“I am trying to be the new Fran,” Madeline Dullum said, refering to her old boss. “It’s a continuation of a tradition. We are hoping to bring in the community.”

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie

Kimball Coffeehouse

Where: 6659 Kimball Drive, Gig Harbor

Open: 6 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday

Phone: 253-858-262