• WHAT: Best of Manteca 2009
• WHEN: Tonights, 5 p.m. social hour, 6:30 p.m. awards
• WHERE: Manteca Trailer showroom, Vasconcellos and East Yosemite avenues
• COST: $25 per ticket
• MORE INFO: Go to www.visitmanteca.org or call the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau at 823-7229
Little did she know that she would not only spend a large portion of her formative years behind the counter of what was to be named the Bean and Leaf Café – the mom and pop shop that has managed to stay open despite having Starbucks in the same complex – but that she would one day be the one signing the checks.
She worked her way up to manager, and quickly developed the knack for getting to know her customers, their drinks, and their lives – the type of service that has helped the business service and that Elkins hopes will now make it thrive.
And she’s doing quite well.
In the six months since Elkins took the keys from friend and former boss Richard Kinsall, she’s already put her own unique touch on the place.
And in a town that has five Starbucks locations, the Bean and Leaf is the one being honored tonight at the Best of Manteca awards being held in the showroom at Manteca Trailer.
“I used to joke with Richard (Kinsall) after I’d been here a while about how one day this would be mine,” Elkins said. “And it’s crazy to think that it is.
“We’re fortunate because we have a dedicated customer base that strives to make this exactly what it is, and you don’t find that in a lot of other places.”
After working the first day that the Bean and Leaf opened three days prior to Thanksgiving in 1996, Elkins held her position until she moved to San Francisco in 2003 – taking on a variety of different jobs including bartender, server, and barista to make ends meet.
It was when she was home visiting her father – who had been afflicted by a stroke – that she was approached by Kinsall about possibly buying the café.
While it was an idea that she had thought about in the past, the previous time she spent in San Francisco seemed to prepare her for her future endeavor.
So the weekend before moving back she held a garage sale where she sold basically everything that she had to come home with the limited startup money she would use for her new business.
“I stayed there just long enough to learn what I needed to learn about this business about life,” Elkins said. “But this is home to me – I went to Manteca High and my family and friends are here so it’s not hard for me to adapt to a life that I lived.
“Especially when you consider the amount of time that I’ve spent inside of these four walls.”
And taking home the award for the Best Coffee Shop in Manteca is something that Elkins – who is approaching the six-month mark as the owner of the shop – takes great pride in.
While she says that during her morning cup of coffee she can’t help but notice the taillights turning into the Starbucks drive-thru, she says that the combination of the dedicated customers and a revisited menu that includes hot breakfast items and popular lunch menu will make it a hit.
“People have told me that they enjoy some of the things that we’ve added, but the one thing that’s remained constant has been the service.” Elkins said. “When you come here enough we take the time to get to know you, and that’s something you don’t find everywhere else.”
The Bean and Leaf Café is located at 1254 W. Lathrop Road. For more information, or to call in an order, call 239-2326.