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Mini donuts and coffee now available on Village outskirts

Keith Strenger

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

When Keith Strenger opened up Pepo Melo, a small, empty space sat adjacent to his Harvard Avenue store, untouched and with little potential. That was until he acquired it two years ago, hoping to turn the unused space into his next ‘million-dollar’ idea.

Eighteen months after signing the neighboring building’s lease, Strenger’s brainstorming came to an end when he finally decided what to do with it — apart from making it temporary storage for Pepo Melo. His idea fulfilled customers longtime request that he add coffee to his acai bowl hut’s menu.

“From day one when I opened up Pepo Melo, everybody said, ‘you should have coffee, you should have coffee.’ But I didn’t want to implement it into the concept,” Strenger said. “Then when I had the opportunity to take on this space, I signed the lease before figuring out what I wanted to do with it … I’ve tried a couple of things in here but ultimately it was just kind of a holding place till coming up with ‘coffee.’

“I think people who are really particular about coffee, who might not or rarely go to Starbucks, are looking for a better made cup of coffee where it’s not only the quality that you’re getting from the bean, but also the quality from the barista [serving you],” he continued. “People will come here because they know they can get a good cup of coffee.”

Nosy Neighbors Coffee and Donuts, which officially soft-opened on Thursday after six months of preparation. The shop gives patrons the caffeine boost they asked for while also providing them with mini donuts and the latest buzz around Claremont.

Outside of Nosy Neighbors coffee and donuts sits the business’s promotional sign reading what their son-opening promotion information is on Wednesday, October 13, a day before their soft-opening. One of the first things patrons will notice about the store will be its lack of seating. Customers will wait in line, order, and then receive their goodies, but there will be no place to sit on their premises, just 24 spaces for people to park their bikes. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Explaining the six-month journey toward opening, Strenger said it’s been tough, especially since COVID-19 has caused many delays in the shipping of vital utilities for the store.

“We’re going to be opening up without a POS [point of sale] system because we’re still waiting for the hardware. Luckily, I have Pepo Melo so we can piggyback off an existing system … but all the equipment, it took weeks longer than it should normally take [getting here],” he said.

During the business’s infancy, Strenger convinced his brother, who designs business logos, to create one for Nosy Neighbors. What turned out to be googly-eyed characters like a coffee bean, cup and a donut surrounding the shop’s name actually ended up emphasizing what Strenger wanted his store to become over time, a local hub where all can go and be nosy.

“We did a whole roll of cork board here,” Strenger said, pointing at the wall at the store’s entrance last week. “And why we did that is, we thought it would be a fun way for a small town like Claremont to have everyone who’s anyone come by and put up their business card [or flyer]. I’d like it to be known to be the place where if you’re walking around and not sure what’s going on that day or month, you can just pop your head in and come take a look.”

But how exactly did donuts make its way into Strenger’s business equation? He said, “I thought, what better goes with coffee than donuts?” The longer answer, comes from an idea planted in Strenger’s head over a decade ago as he was living in San Francisco.

He recalled a mom-and-pop shop on Fisherman’s Wharf called Trish’s Mini Donuts which always drew a crowd of people. Patrons enjoyed either eating the shop’s various powdered donuts, or watching the store’s machine churn out uniform, bite-sized treats.

Kaitlyn Clark, left, and Annika Sanchez, right, two of Nosy Neighbors cashiers and donut handlers, oversee the store’s mini donut assembly line and place donuts into bags of a dozen. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

Now, Nosy Neighbors is equipped with its own mini donut mechanism, the SS1200 from Lil’ Orbits — which can produce over 1,200 mini donuts per hour — and Strenger hopes to replicate that same nostalgic donut shop atmosphere for locals 409 miles down south.

“You can put various sweeteners on them like sugar and cinnamon,” Strenger said. “[But] we’re going to have more unique things. We’ll have some very unique powders like amaretto, cotton candy, marshmallow … powders that you can put on the donuts to add a different flair to it.”
In addition, Strenger said the shop will offer signature coffee drinks including lattes and cold brew coffees that most caffeine lovers will enjoy. Nosy Neighbors uses Klatch coffee beans for their drinks.

Aside from the giant orange sign draped behind the barista counter, one of the first things patrons will notice is its lack of seating. Customers will wait in line, order, and then receive their goodies, but that’s it. There will be no place to sit, just 24 spaces for people to park their bikes. While this is due mainly to the limited size of the store, Strenger said it’s also a unique business model.

“Claremonters old and young, I think they enjoy walking around the Village and treating themselves to certain things that would be easy enough to eat while walking around,” he shared. Similar to Pepo Melo, “if you grab a bowl of fruit, walk around and enjoy the town, you can do the same thing with a bag of donuts and a cup of coffee.”

Nosy Neighbors is currently soft-opening, meaning their hours will be limited from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until they fully open. During this time, all available drinks will cost just $2.00. Next Friday, October 22 — once the Nosy Neighbor crew is accustomed to the store’s traffic and duties — Strenger hopes to fully open his doors.

Plenty is in store for the new business including vegan donuts later in the year. Ask the owner or the baristas about the shop’s special membership program, which gives patrons access to unlimited amounts of coffee for $59.99 per month — spots are limited, however. For more information about store hours and updates, visit their website, https://nosyneighborscoffee.com.

“There’s plenty of other bakeries here, but I think this is just a great thing to kind of hit the spot,” Strenger said.

 

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