By SCOTT AUST
At 7 a.m. Friday, Patrick Dugan’s Coffee House, 301 N. Main St., revealed to the public the fruits of an expansion project that took 13 months from start to finish, wrapping up late Wednesday evening.
“We were at the point that Friday and Saturday mornings you couldn’t get in the door. There’s a line between being popular and you’ve gotten so busy that people stop coming in,” owner Doug Harder said, adding that he didn’t like it when he’d see people open the door, see a line and then leave.
“We needed to get bigger and we desperately needed seating. We’ve been talking about this for probably two years, but just had to wait. We didn’t want to leave downtown, but we had to have someplace to put the Paraclete Group.”
The coffee shop expanded into an area formerly the site of the Paraclete Group computer services. Harder and Pat Howard opened Paraclete Computer Services in 2001, followed by Patrick Dugan’s on Memorial Day weekend in 2008.
Patrick Dugan’s has more than doubled its available seating, going from 32 to 72. The renovation added a larger espresso bar, improved the lighting and sound and took care of some other things to make the operation work better.
“We got a new espresso machine which adds 50 percent to that capacity, and it’s a matter of seconds. We can steam milk in 20 seconds now and it used to take a minute. That adds up. It can pull six shots now instead of two,” Harder said.
Inside, a series of electric outlets and USB ports have been installed along a wooden shelf which will allow people to hook up their laptops or recharge their phones.
“This is the laptop zone,” Harder said. “You can plug in right here, you have a desktop to work at, power right here. Usually, if you’re bringing that stuff in you’re not coming in to socialize so to face the wall is not a big deal. We muted the overhead light for them and tried to be as thoughtful as we could.”
Adding to the already established social ambiance, the expanded space features artwork by local artists. Justin Brown provided custom painting and a new mural, and artwork produced by Robin Valenzuela is currently featured in a gallery area along the north wall that will be rotated to feature additional artists from time to time.
Harder said Dugan’s had bought one of Brown’s banner art pieces a couple of years ago which depicted coffee cups, so he thought it would be nice to use someone they knew to paint in the renovated space. He added that Valenzuela is a longtime friend of the coffee shop and he loves her work. He said they bought one of her banner art creations last year and wanted to display her work.
“That gallery will change. She’ll be our feature artist as long as we want it, and we’re working with the arts folk across the street,” he said. “So when we’re ready, they’ll take that down and bring in new stuff.”
Manager Cassie Gonzales is excited about the expansion and expressed gratitude toward Patrick Dugan’s customers for their ongoing support.
“I’ve been here since day one and for about the past five years we’ve had a big calling from our customers to expand our seating. I feel really fortunate to be part of the harvest of all this,” she said. “I’m very excited. It’s been a long time coming and it’s nice to finally see it happen.”
Harder said the Dugan’s expansion had been discussed for years, but had to wait until a storefront became available in which to relocate the computer service business. That happened last July when a dress shop vacated the space just to the west of Dugan’s at 105 W. Chestnut Street.
“This took 13 months to do,” Harder said. “It took time to get that space cleaned up, move the computer store over, and then we had to clean 16 years worth of computer store out, and that took another several months. Construction as we know it really started in February. We literally got done last night (Wednesday) at 8.”
In addition to more space, Harder said the expansion will allow the operation to be more efficient. Dugan’s currently has four full time, and three part time employees, “and Cassie – she’s really like five people by herself,” Harder said.
Harder agreed when asked if the expansion adds to Dugan’s role as a downtown destination and success story.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Most of the people who come down here aren’t downtowners, so we have probably disproven several assumed falsehoods about downtown, that people won’t come downtown, all these things they said wouldn’t work we said, ‘yeah, they will.’ And they have for a decade. If you want to put a business downtown, if you put the right business downtown and do your homework, it can work.”
Harder is eager for people to come see the new space and enjoy some “old school” face to face social networking.
“Put your phone in your purse or pocket and talk to somebody across the table – old school – and enjoy great coffee while you do it,” he said.