Daily Planet 12/29/10

At Between the Covers, High Alpine is brewing

From left: Rick Pettis, barista, with Hilary Douglass and Jon Hubbard at the High Alpine Coffee Bar, located in the back of Between the Cover bookstore. Hubbard and Douglass just bought the coffee shop section of the store on Dec.1. Bobbi T. Smith and Daiva Chesonis bought the bookstore that day, too. [Photo by Kevin Ludwig]

Two locals buy the bookstore’s coffee bar

By Matthew Beaudin
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 Daily Planet
A little coffee shop tucked away somewhere is a lovely surprise. It’s an invitation to watch clouds bloom from cream in your cup and to reflect on an hour, a morning, a life.

The coffee shop at Between the Covers — now called the High Alpine Coffee Bar — is such a place, a little espresso hamlet through which the creaks of the bookstore’s old wooden floor echo.

Jon Hubbard and Hilary Douglass bought the coffee shop section of Between the Covers when it sold to Bobbi T. Smith and Daiva Chesonis on Dec. 1. Since then, they’ve been leaving their mark on the space, which was, according to Hubbard, the first coffee shop in the town of Telluride’s modern era.

The wedding of books and coffee is a perfect union of ideas and the stimulation to entertain them. “You get people coming in in the evenings. They’ll bring a stack of books and magazines back here,” Hubbard said. “The atmosphere is different. That’s our main focus now.”

 Douglas says it’s the customers — both local and from afar — that keep her interested in coffee.

“If they have a friendly, comfortable place to go, they’ll keep coming back for their cup of coffee,” she said. “It’s fun.”

The pair have been in town off and on for years. They’re both artists — Douglass makes high-art jewelry and Hubbard is a metal worker — and have a 15-month old daughter, Elbe. Hubbard also restores old bicycles, teaches classes at Ah Haa School and works for the Telluride Academy.

“And I snow shovel,” he added.

The space is under a slow metamorphosis. Right now, they’re using Desert Sun out of Durango for the beans, though that may change. There’s a new bakery case housing new items from Norwood’s Happy Belly Deli and Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery. Gradually, the couches in the back will be replaced with tables and a soup and salad lunch will be offered.

“We’re trying to update stuff without having to close,” Hubbard said. “We’re trying to set ourselves apart with a really high quality bean and coffee.”

In the summer, they’ll spruce up the patio out back and even run a solar-powered vending cart for the festivals. “It’ll be full on coffee, espresso, baked goods…” Hubbard said.

But really, it’s about how good the coffee is. And the coffee at High Alpine is good and rich. As with all good coffee, the feeling that comes with a cup is transcendent. Take this for example, from Honere de Balzac: “This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion.  Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place.  Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.  The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition…”

Yeah, it’s something like that.

Hubbard and Douglass are trying to get more local artwork into the space, and will even commission local artists to create ceramic mugs for the bar. It may be in the imagination, but the bar seems more inviting these days.

“I think people appreciate it,” Hubbard said. He’s just learning how to make coffee and its legion of drinks, but he tries to take time to walk a cup out to whoever orders it. “I say how’s it going?” he said. “They like it. I think that’s what gets people to come back.

“I think I just take pride in everything,” he said.

The coffee shop is open from 8-8 Monday through Friday, from 9-8 on Saturday and from 9-6 on Sunday.