Local family opens up coffee shop in Blue Lake

For Michihiro and Keiko Sugata, the idea of owning a cafe had been in their minds since moving to Blue Lake with their kids, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that the opportunity presented itself.

“As a couple, you like to dream up about what could be and how to establish yourself in the community,” Assistant Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, and co-owner of Honeycomb Coffee, Michihiro Sugata said.

“Keiko had her eye on this particular property, almost since the day we moved here, but there was another business here.”

Then one day in the spring of 2019, co-owner Keiko Sugata said it was suddenly empty.

Immediately, the couple jumped on the chance to own the space and applied to the city to open up a cafe. Months later in December, the two had the soft opening for Honeycomb Coffee.

With no previous experience running coffee machines, Keiko Sugata worked tirelessly to learn how to operate the machines. While there was trial and error, the couple also said they looked for help online.

Matcha latte with almond milk at Honeycomb Coffee. | Photo by El Leñador staff

“It was Youtube,” Keiko Sugata said. “A lot of Youtube.”

Another draw of the shop is the homemade baked goods that the store sells. Honeycomb Coffee offers a variety of snacks to eat with your drink, such as banana bread muffins, granola and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

“I come here about 6 a.m. and then start baking,’’ Keiko Sugata said. “We open at 7 a.m. and by that time there is only one cookie or one muffin that is there, and I keep adding as the day goes.”

The Sugata’s made sure to provide a small variety of ice cream available for sale for the kids within the neighborhood, including their own.

“Kids aren’t going to have a coffee, so we had to make sure to have something for kids,” Keiko Sugata said. “And it’s cute, kids walking around with their ice cream cones. I get quite the comments from people saying that it’s cute.”

A favorite amongst the community, and on Instagram, is the orange cardamom cookies.

“The cardamoms are amazing,” said Stephanie Dickinson on an Instagram post of a freshly baked tray of the cookies.

A large part of the desire to open the shop was the surrounding community of Blue Lake. The Sugata’s moved from Gifu, Japan to Phoenix, Arizona so that Michihiro could complete his graduate and obtain his doctorate. After eight years there, they moved to Blue Lake for a slower pace and friendlier community.

A sampling of some of the snacks available for sale that Keiko Sugata makes herself. Labels help to ensure that customers know exactly what goes into their food. | Photo by Carlos Holguin

While they were determined to create this coffee shop, the difficulty of retrofitting the space to an acceptable level for the city was a process that heavily challenged them.

According to both owners, the space had previously been used as office space, which meant getting plans for plumbing and additional electrical work was extensive.

“I can’t tell you how many times people said to us no,” Michihiro

Sugata said. “We kept resubmitting plans, redesigning things and just kind of refused to give up on it. We really believed that it could be something really neat.”

The hope of both owners is to help the community grow, without growing too fast themselves. Michihiro Sugata said that while they enjoy running the business, their main goal is to give back to the community that supported them from the start, not to turn Honeycomb into an expansive franchise.

“If we were in the middle of [Los Angeles], and you don’t know what you’re doing on day one, I think you’re probably out of business by day 30,” Michihiro Sugata said. “Here we are kinda filling a real niche, which is that we are trying to make something that the community really wants.”

“They want us to be successful.”

Honeycomb Coffee is located at 431 1st Ave in Blue Lake. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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