nted a coffee shop where her customers could hang out and linger over a great cup of joe.
For a time, the idea existed only in her mind, but with an enthusiastic push from a local developer, Zuk opened Mug Shot Coffee more than a year ago.
On a cool, cloudy afternoon, customers filter in and out of the downtown Ottawa shop, which sits off West First Street, tucked back along the alley between Main and Walnut. Some customers grab a drink a to go. Others sit in overstuffed chairs, sipping and reading. Nearby, a group sits at a large wooden table, laughing and catching up.
“Ottawa didn’t have a place just to hang out, and now we’re a place to hang out,” Zuk said. “We’re everything. We’re community.”
From Idea To Fruition
A few years ago, Zuk took a year off from her job in Kansas City and returned to Ottawa to help care for her ill father. It was during this time she noticed there wasn’t a place available to get a cup of coffee.
“After my dad passed away, the idea kept bothering me, and so I just did it,” Carol said. “And since then, doors have been opened for me that I never would’ve imagined.”
For more than a year, Zuk visited regional coffee shops, conducting her own brand of research.
“I’d go to shops in the metro-Kansas City area, or when I would travel,” she said. “I’d pay attention to the hours when they were the busiest. I’d look at the menu, and I’d look at the seating available. I’d stay two or three hours just to get a feel for the place.”
“I probably spent a year and a half dreaming and planning and talking with people.”
Carol knew she wanted to open a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Ottawa, and began working with city officials to find the ideal space.
In fact, Wynndee Lee, the city’s community development director, put Zuk in touch with local developer Rick Deitz.
“The city was a real advocate for me,” she said. “Wynndee was very helpful, and told me I should contact this guy named Rick Deitz, who was like me and very interested in opening a coffee shop.”
Carol called Rick, and after a 45-minute conversation, the two embarked on a search for retail space. The process continued for the next month or two.
“We were brainstorming, and looking at different buildings, and before I knew it, he bought it, and I became his first tenant,” she said. “He eased the burden, and I’m so glad that happened.”
Over the next few months, Rick installed the plumbing, utilities and made sure the entrance was ADA-compliant among other tasks. Carol contributed sweat equity by painting and designing the space, which was formerly a NAPA Auto Parts building.
The coffee shop’s interior is open, featuring a mix of metal and wood, exposed stone and brick walls and plenty of comfortable seating. Large canvases featuring the Norman Rockwell-esque photographs of local photographer John Gladman dot the walls.
Gladman paired up with Zuk early on as a collaborator, offering his help while the building was under construction.
“John was instrumental in starting this business up,” she said. “He was encouraging, and really supported me.”
The Mug Shot name is actually a play on words, combining coffee, photography and Carol’s love for vintage items. Although she hasn’t been able to fully implement the mugshot theme yet, she envisions using photos of famous gangsters as well as mugshots of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and other celebrities. She’d also like to eventually feature a photo booth, where customers could pose for their own mugshots, which would be posted on the wall.
Along with coffee and other drinks, Mug Shot features chairs, couches and room to read magazines, or pick up a book from one of the bookshelves in the back. The small library is operated on the take-one, leave-one principle, though readers don’t always have to leave one. Customers have even donated books to the burgeoning collection.
An intimate patio area is also available for those preferring to sit outside.
Coffee And More
Mug Shot offers a selection of hot and cold coffee-house standards, including lattes, breves, cappuccinos and espressos. Other offerings include sparkling lemonade, fruit smoothies, frappe shakes, iced chai lattes, iced and hot teas, hot chocolate and steamers. Mix-in flavors, syrups and sauces are also available.
The shop also features muffins made in-house, with flavors ranging from blueberry streusel to pumpkin-chocolate chip. The freshly made muffins are so popular, she said, Mug Shot sells 1,000 every month. Other menu items include scones, cinnamon rolls and power balls.
While the business previously experimented with quiche and souffles, Zuk intends to roll out a limited number of lunch items, including sandwiches, salads, chips and sides. Those items could be added within the next month or two.
Zuk has a staff of five, including her son, Ethan, 20, a former college student who’s seemed to find his niche.
“He’s been working his way up, and is really interested in the business,” Carol said. “He comes up with ideas for different processes, and ways to become more efficient. And he really cares about customer service, consistency and keeping product excellence up.”
The shop’s clientele vary from college students to seniors and everyone in between. It’s the variety, Ethan said, that makes his job fun.
“There’s a real mix, and it’s really interesting,” he said. “Everyone who stops by here for the first time enjoys it, and that’s good to hear.”
Mug Shot Coffee is open from 6:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sunday. The business phone number is 785-229-0481. Updates and other details are available on Mug Shot Coffee’s Facebook page.
“I always believed in Ottawa, and I believed in the shop,” she said. “Starbucks opened around the same time, but I wasn’t worried. We’re a place to hang out. You can get a cup of coffee and a muffin that’s handmade with love. It wasn’t frozen and in a box that came off a truck. We offer a consistency and a quality, and I think that’s what made us successful. I think the customers feel like it’s their home.”