Coffee shop under new ownership

Evo's Java House customers got more than a latte' and a pastry at the counter on Monday. A hand-written note announced new owners had bought the business and take over the helm on Jan. 1.

Reactions from the "regulars" ranged from outright crying to probing into the new owner's plans for the business, which has been in the same location at 376 E. Main St. for 18 years.

"Overall, we've received tremendous feedback from well-wishers who are very supportive of our future adventures," said Debbie Loray, who has owned the shop with her partner Brandon Bryant since Jan. 2004.

She said the decision tugged at her heartstrings.

"The best part of this business is the people we've gotten to know and love here," Loray said. "They've reminded us how fantastic people can be and it will be hard not seeing them as frequently."

The two put the business up for sale about six months ago.

"Mostly we did it because we're looking for new adventures," said Loray, adding that Flamenco dancing in Spain is high on the list of possibilities.

The new owners

Brigette and Dan Cooke will become the fourth owners of Evo's. They recently moved to Medford from San Jose, Calif. where Brigette ran a preschool and Dan, 51, worked in the laser industry. Both were semi-retired and ready to "drop out of the rat race" when they made the leap to buy the coffee shop.

"One day we went into Evo's, fell in love with the ambiance immediately, found out it was for sale and here we are," said Brigette.

A local institution

For many, Evo's is more than just a community coffee house. The eclectic building is steeped in the arts, from the chandelier to the paintings on the walls to the photographs in the bathroom. Mostly local artists created the 18 pieces.

Many come to play chess, eat a vegan meal, drink organic coffee or just sit and chat with whoever's nearby due to the close proximity of tables.

"You really see people interacting with each other here," said owner Loray. "There aren't too many places like that since most coffee shops today are drive-thrus."

She said she can't put her finger on why the community has embraced the business for so long.

"What makes one place feel clinical and another feel comfortable and lived in? I don't know if it's the historical corner, the artwork or the incredible people who come in here everyday. But Evo's has kept a human richness that makes it feel different from any other place in Ashland," she said.

Status quo

The Cookes said they understand that Evo's is a local institution and want to continue that legacy. All eight employees will be staying on and the first couple months will be business as usual.

They just have a few plans that will add their own flavor to the place.

"Brandon put up a gazebo, and we'd like to put a patio around that and upgrade the deck," said Bridgette.

Loray and Bryant own most of the current art pieces; but Brigette said she wants to meet with local Ashland artists and hopefully come up with a rotation plan to showcase their work.

Dan said, "We recognize the current cultural importance of Evo's. The previous owner's vision was beautiful and we want to see it continue."

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