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Losing Mocha Joe’s – our home away from home

Sometimes a coffeehouse is more than a coffeehouse.

Unpretentious but cozy.

Unpretentious but cozy.

That’s the case with the mom and pop café in south Davis, Mocha Joes, where I have been a customer and part of the woodwork since its opening 18 years ago.

A big part of my life and that of its family of patrons will disappear when Mocha Joes closes at the end of the year.  Not to mention its owners, Sophie and Jason, who are irreplaceable. I know that the sadness and void I will feel when theymove on will linger for a long time.

In this part of south Davis one sense of community is auto dealers and fast-food chains. You can understand why Mocha Joes is to be savored.

It is a throwback to a different era.

There’s no wireless and the coffeehouse doesn’t accept credit cards. It is only recently that an ATM machine was installed. Several years ago I tried to talk Sophie into getting a smart phone and using Square Register for credit card charges.  That was a brief and abrupt conversation.

Mocha Joes is a gathering place for people to talk to each other, to meet and greet, to find out how families are doing, to laugh, lament, and praise and complain. Social, volunteer, business and political organizations use it for meetings. I won’t go so far to say it is spiritual. But it certainly is inspiring.

And that’s because of Sophie (or Sophia if you prefer) and Jason who know all their customers by name, who remember your favorite drink even if time has passed since the last visit, who play off each other like Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis or the Smother Brothers. (I think this dates me)


Sophie giving me the evil eye.


Jason is very comfortable in his bakery.

Sophie, who sweeps through the café like the Energizer bunny and talks a mile a minute, is always friendly and always with an edge. She can love your children in one second and make fun of you in another. She knows all and is freely willing to dispense her wisdom.  Six days a week, from 6 a.m. to a 5 p.m. closing, there she is. Always.  Laughing, chatting about the day’s news, coaxing you to talk about yourself, sometimes complaining about aging even as she sprints to the next task. Making espresso drinks, sandwiches, salads. The anchor, the cement, the focal point. My heroine.

And then the foil, Jason, Sophie’s husband of 31 years, whose baking can match anyone’s. You want to compare the blueberry bran muffins, scones and croissants he bakes to the pathetic stuff they call pastries at the corporate giants, Starbucks and Peets, you go right ahead. His day starts about 4 a.m. and when he finishes baking he is out front as a barista and as the brunt of Sophie’s constant attention. He is a sparring partner but she is the Muhammad Ali of this combo. His spirit is indefatigable. His cordiality unending.

I must mention their only child, Susan, who I have seen grow from a shy, studious girl to a champion tennis player, confident young woman who is a senior at University of Pacific and headed for a successful business career as a certified public accountant.  And guess where she inherited her gift of gab.

I don’t know who or what business will succeed Mocha Joes at this Nugget strip mall on Mace Boulevard. Not that Nugget executives would necessarily tell me but I really was afraid of hearing a response.

Please don’t let it be No. 21,000 for Starbucks.


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