The first thing that strikes you when you walk into Zopita’s on the Square is the silence.
Not from a lack of activity by any means: You can hear the gentle sounds of bustling from the kitchen, the gurgle of percolators, and the clink of glassware as it takes its place along the shelves.
But what you don’t hear: The alterna-folk-step-and-b music of most modern chains coffee shops (no names named).
The tick-tick-tick of keyboards or smart phones while conversation goes along the wayside, or at best takes a side seat.
It’s almost as though you walked in the door from today and stepped straight into yesterday.
Believe me: This is fantastic.
What greets you is the warm, welcoming smile of Anna Palazola, one half of the mom-and-pop employee/owner crew of Zopita’s.
Palazola, along with her husband, Charles, run the operation, with some lunch time assistance from a family friend. The Palazolas handle everything, from fresh-baked breads in the mornings to homemade desserts and specialty coffees throughout their operating day.
The cafe makes quite a change from Palazola’s former career.
“I was in real estate for 22 years,” she said, “and I was ready for a change. Driving people around to see houses, going from place to place. It’s more a thing for young people.”
An opportunity for change came when her husband sold his stake in his family’s business. This, combined with the growth of their youngest child into adulthood offered the time, means, and opportunity to
to start a new chapter in their lives.
The Palazolas initially planned to open a take-and-bake style prepared foods store. Anna, a life-long cook, thought she might live the dream she believed her mother wanted for herself: To spend her days in a kitchen, to create foods meant to fill bellies and warm souls.
The idea evolved: Food still played a great role in the new venture, but now coffee received equal - if not top - billing.
“We were so excited,” Palazola said behind her counter. “It became one of those ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ things.”
The process took more than a year.
The Palazolas found their ideal location on N. Main St., just off the town square. The site, formerly a cheesecake shop, required a massive overhaul to suit the needs of its new occupants.
“There wasn’t even a kitchen when we moved in,” Palazola said with a wave to the back of the shop. “We had to start that from scratch!”
This included the creation of meals and recipes for the shop. The Palazolas knew they never wanted anything over the top – no grandiose items for a snooty palate. Instead, they wanted to treat people to wholesome, home-cooked goodness.
Anna would handle the back-of-house duties, such as cooking and creation; Charles would take care of the front of the house and clean-up operations.
Numerous other small businesses, some long-time residents, surrounded the newcomers or employees like old friends, and remark how every single one made sure to stop by, introduce him- or herself, and made Zopita’s a member of the local community.
Now Palazola’s business day starts around 8:30 a.m., more than two hours before opening. She preps foods throughout the day, because everything sold in the cafe is an in-house creation, with the exception of the smoked salmon. Sometimes she preps with a small Bluetooth speaker for background noise, but not to work the counter.
Everything is handwritten and handled in the cafe except for credit card payments. While music can be a welcome diversion, in Palazola’s opinion it could also prove a distraction from the customer.
It’s still early in the cafe’s existence for future plans of a long-term nature, though the thought of fresh baked bread as an offered item came up. It could go right along side meatballs, hefty lasagnas (that require adequate bottom support for proper transport) and decadent desserts like eclairs, brownies and carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing.
And the coffee? If you crave a cup of regular brew, prepare yourself for something traditional: A smattering of grounds in the bottom of each cup, just like stove-boiled. Specialty drinks? You can enjoy cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, americanos and espresso. Flavor seekers can add a splash to their drinks, including caramel, mocha, vanilla and, occasionally, eggnog.
There is also a specialty drink concocted at Zopita’s known as the Bombon: A combination of espresso and condensed milk.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of sweets. Typically, a candy bar will do me a month and I won’t think another thing of it until my sweet tooth comes out of hiding.
I am weak against carrot cake and can solemnly testify: Palazola’s homemade sits as one of the absolute best ever to come my way. Every forkful seemed the amount of icing and cake, with just the right spice-to-sweet ratio.
Coffee wise? I enjoyed the espresso, though I always feel like a giant at a tea party with the tiny cup and saucer. The traditional black and grounds made me think of old family members long since passed. And the Bombon? My son couldn’t drink his - “too sweet,” said the boy with the mouthful of sweet teeth - so I did the right thing and took it off his hands.
And drank it.
Because I could not stop myself. It’s tastiness commanded me, and I obeyed.
Visit Zopita’s on the Square at 114 N. Main St. Monday - Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.