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One woman show, Mount Shasta's Coffee Brake celebrates 20 years

Kelsey Shelton
Mount Shasta Herald
Suzzanne Mendenhall, owner of The Coffee Brake, hands a customer coffee. The business recently celebrated 20 years in business in Mount Shasta.

A fixture in the Rite Aid parking lot and a one woman show, The Coffee Brake in Mount Shasta celebrated 20 years in business last week.

“It feels amazing. Weird, like it went by kind of fast,” said owner Suzzanne Mendenhall, who founded the drive thru coffee joint at 302 W. Lake Street in 2000. A few years ago, Mendenhall made the difficult decision to run the shop solo, without employees. She said she aims to continue serving coffee lovers for years to come.

Raised in the Los Angeles area - and still an avid Dodgers fan - Mendenhall moved to Mount Shasta in 1984. She remembers vacationing and camping in the area with family as a young girl.

“It is totally my home now,” she said.

The Coffee Brake in Mount Shasta celebrated 20 years in business.

Mendenhall initially got the idea to open the shop from her kids' father. “He did background and planning, but internet was so new, I learned how to negotiate myself around ... and bought everything off of Ebay, except the building,” she said. 

“My dream had always been to open a shop, like a restaurant-style shop, but I am glad I chose this instead,” said Mendenhall. “It’s a very good business, and I am proud of it.”

While Mendenhall has had many successes over the past 20 years, there has also been heartbreak.

In 2002, The Coffee Brake was destroyed by a tow truck that rolled down from the Sports & Spirits Chevron gas station. “I was out of business for six months," Mendenhall said. "The building was deemed unfixable, so I had to have a new trailer made." Once it was replaced, she was back at it, selling coffee and other drinks to locals and Mount Shasta visitors alike.

Mendenhall said several personal things have happened over the years that changed the dynamics of her business. At one point, she made the decision to run the shop solo, without employees.

“I had two choices, shut down and get a job, or run the place myself, and I'm glad I chose the latter of the two,” she said. While having no employees has been doable for Mendenhall, she said that she feels proud that she was able to give a lot of people jobs over the years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to change the way they did things. Mendenhall, on the other hand, was able to stay open as usual. 

“I was very lucky to be able to stay open," she said. "I didn’t lose one single day.”

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Mendenhall said she took note of what other coffee shops, like Starbucks, were doing. “If Starbucks can stay open, whatever they do, I do," she said. "Since I am just drive-thru, that gave automatic social distancing, and I wear a mask."

The downside of the pandemic for Mendenhall is that her regular customers have "drifted off," since many are staying at home more, not working, or their hours are different. However, she's seen an influx of travelers over the summer.

One thing she would change about her business if she could? “I would have the building turned around, so the window could face the mountain," Mendenhall said. Other than that, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’ve felt blessed that I have been able to stay open through everything,” she said “I would like for it to keep going like it is ... I have had a lot of offers over the past 20 years from buyers. I don’t plan on selling it for a long time."