Debbie Croft: Pony Expresso gallops back to Mariposa

March 1, 2013 

In case you haven't heard, the Pony is back in town.

Three weeks ago, owner-operator Amy Eaton opened her doors to the Pony Expresso Coffee House in a new location.

The shop was one of many businesses that burned to the ground in last year's fire on Mariposa's Fifth Street. The morning after the fire, Eaton and her full-time employee, Debbie Ashton, stood on the street corner in front of the rubble offering free coffee to passers-by. It was her way of assuring the community they would be back in business as soon as possible.

For several months, the owners of the Sugar Pine Café allowed Eaton and her crew to serve coffee at their place on Monday mornings.

Last summer Eaton found an empty building for lease at 5182 Highway 49 North and initiated the process toward occupancy. For a month or two, things got stressful while dealing with the insurance company. Then she spent three months in the planning stage with the county.

It took another three months to renovate the space. Eaton hired Jerry Lura Construction, and can't say enough about how his knowledge, support and forethought helped her rebuild her coffee house.

The Pony now is located near Highways 140 and 49 on the north side of town. Eaton said business has been fabulous.

"This location has frontage, ease of access with three driveway entrances, and plenty of parking," she explained.

Eaton bought the business in 2006. Since then the shop has been in five different spots around town. Limited parking was always an issue.

Under a clear blue sky, tables and chairs sit on the front deck awaiting customers. Inside, the dining area is clean, spacious and cozy.

Although the current square footage is less than what they had before, the new floorplan feels much bigger. A separate room is available for private meetings and parties.

Inside the shop, quirky quotes and artwork are all about -- what else -- coffee:

"Caffeine: The last legal drug."

"Drink coffee. Do stupid things faster and with more energy."

"Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed. Chocolate makes it worthwhile."

As former residents of the San Jose area before moving to the foothills, Eaton worked at the Morgan Hill Coffee Roasting Club for a few years. That's when she fell in love with the business.

After acquiring the Pony, her husband, Bill, taught himself the art of coffee roasting. They take great pride in their product, believing small batch roasting is the most crucial element.

Many customers have become friends, and are like an extended family. A mom and her two kids stepped inside the shop Tuesday afternoon, and Eaton said, "Wow, the kids have grown. I haven't seen them in so long."

She felt a real void in her life during the past 10 months. Eaton couldn't wait to get back behind the counter serving her customers.

Besides hot and cold beverages, the menu has expanded. Breakfast and lunch items include mouth-watering pastries, soups and in the near future, salads. The baked goods are homemade by Eaton, Ashton and Melissa Land, a pastry chef.

On Valentine's Day, Eaton received seven bouquets of flowers from local businesses and loyal customers. "The tremendous response I've encountered in the past couple weeks has been the most amazing experience," she said.

On Saturday, Eaton has planned a grand opening celebration with a barbecue, musicians and much more. Following that, the shop will be open seven days a week, starting at 6 a.m. Currently the Pony is open at 7 a.m. every day, except Wednesday.

Eaton concluded, "After working seven days a week for a whole month before we opened, and then six days a week after we opened, I'm dead tired when I get home. These days are long and wonderful, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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