Bethany Clough

This local coffee chain is taking over a Starbucks – and wine and chocolate are involved

Kuppa Joy owner Zack Follett explains faith and coffee

Former Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett has opened his second Kuppa Joy coffee shop. This one is at 1900 N. Echo Ave. in Fresno. Here, he explains how his Christian faith led him to open the coffee shops. The original shop is in Old Town Clov
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Former Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett has opened his second Kuppa Joy coffee shop. This one is at 1900 N. Echo Ave. in Fresno. Here, he explains how his Christian faith led him to open the coffee shops. The original shop is in Old Town Clov

A northeast Fresno Starbucks is closing and locally owned Kuppa Joy is taking it over – but this one will be totally different than the other Kuppa Joy coffee shops.

Think wine. And chocolate. And chocolate paired with wine or coffee inside a business that’s part coffee shop and part wine bar, all of it in a setting the founder defines as “rustic elegance.”

The Starbucks is at the southwest corner of Cedar and Shepherd avenues, in the same shopping center as Vons. It’s open now, but its lease is expiring and the company was planning to leave the space, according to Zack Follett, the former Detroit Lions football player and Clovis High grad who founded Kuppa Joy.

Starbucks is telling customers it will close March 24.

It will take many months of construction, but if all goes as planned, this new version of Kuppa Joy would open in September. Follett signed a lease Tuesday.

It will still be a coffee shop. It will also still be a coffee shop with the mission of sharing God’s love. Like his other coffee shops, it will have a large white throne of judgment.

Kuppa Joy now has one coffee shop each in Fresno and Clovis and “joy thrus” (drive-thrus) in Madera and one in Fresno at Cedar and Herndon avenues. It recently opened a Kuppa Joy kiosk inside the California Cancer Associates for Research and Excellence (cCARE) near Millbrook and Herndon avenues.

A location is in the works on Draper Street in Kingsburg, too.

What’s different

One thing the location in the former Starbucks in Fresno will have that the existing ones don’t? Plenty of parking, jokes Follett. It’s in a large shopping center.

But there are a couple of other ways this Kuppa Joy will be different. It will use a brand of espresso machine that’s under the counter. This way, customers can watch baristas make their drinks without the boxy equipment blocking the view.

“That box also is in the way of us connecting with the person,” Follett said. “It will be a much easier way to connect (the) barista and the customers.”

There will be actual bar seating in addition to tables. A small grill will provide three or four breakfast items, like pancakes or eggs.

“This will be a small wine bar, as well,” Follett said. “We want to bring in a tasting experience.”

“Kuppy Joy is like ‘Cheers,’” he said. “We want to create bar seating within coffee.”

Chocolate, too

As for pairing chocolate with coffee and wine, that’s a growing trend, says Yohanes Makmur, who owns Fresno-based chocolate company Raphio with his wife Elisia Otavi-Makmur.

“It is in the bigger metro world,” Makmur said. “Coffee is definitely more of a culture and chocolate has been incorporated into the shop a lot more.”

Coffee and chocolate tasting rooms are opening in bigger cities, like Cup & Bar in Portland, Ore.

At Kuppa Joy, there will be tastings that pair chocolate with various brews of coffee. Coffee can enhance and even change the taste of chocolate, Makmur said. The Raphio chocolate that has a hint of citrus, for example, morphs into tasting like butterscotch when paired with coffee, he said.

Expect discussions about single-origin coffee and single-origin chocolate and how the taste varies depending upon where it comes from, Follett said.

Raphio has already partnered with Kuppa Joy, using its coffee in their chocolate with an image of the throne on the bar. The coffee has also been used in Raphio’s Christmas and Valentine’s Day bon bons. It will be for sale at the new location.

The look Follett is planning for the new place was inspired by a visit to the cafe inside the Restoration Hardware store in Chicago.

The new location has a few tables outside now, but Follett wants to make the space into a patio with planter boxes and other features.

Many of us reach for that morning cup of coffee without giving much thought to how it might benefit us –other than getting us out of bed.

Bethany Clough: (559) 441-6431, @BethanyClough

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Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.
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