Under new ownership, Coffee 9 promises to maintain the café’s charm, located at 9505 Highway 9 in Ben Lomond. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Mo L’Esperance got her start into food service at a pizza place in Southern California.

“I got hired as a cashier,” she recalled. “Within two weeks I was in the back cooking, because it was more fun.”

And after stints “back-of-house” in San Francisco, along the North Coast and in Santa Cruz, including as a manager in the kitchens of large lodging providers, on Jan. 1 she took over the reins at Coffee 9 in Ben Lomond, where she’s proud to reside.

“I like the idea of doing something local in the community that I live in, and on a smaller scale,” said “Chef Mo,” who previously worked at both the Dream Inn and Costanoa Lodge. “I love Ben Lomond and this place is cute, so it’s kind of all kismet.”

When you work in food and beverage for bigger establishments, there are just so many more factors that come into play, she notes.

“There’s less freedom,” she said, adding when you don’t have to worry about extra stuff like weddings, group catering and room service you have more time to focus on food service. “It just makes me appreciate a smaller staff and a smaller menu.”

Her plan is to maintain the café feel locals have come to expect, while augmenting things where appropriate. This is her first time owning a restaurant and she says she’s committed to rolling out whatever changes she decides to make in a fluid manner.

The interior space already looks a little brighter and they’ve begun making bagels in-house, but there’s still ’60s era rock n’ roll emanating through the speakers and the history book about the hippie commune that once existed in Ben Lomond can still be purchased.

“We’re going to keep it the same, but focus on a larger lunch business as well,” L’Esperance said. “Nothing’s going to become corporate or anything like that.”

L’Esperance has been looking at some small menu tweaks and extending business hours.

“We’re doing a lot more scratch cooking,” she said. “We’ll be bringing in a couple new types of coffee. But other than that, it’s still the same people, the same charm.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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