“When we first got here, one of our priorities was to honor and embrace the community,” says Rachel Ward, explaining the ethos that she and her husband, Tim Ward, employed while opening Old Town Coffee in the heart of Goleta. As I gaze up at the old Goleta lemon-crate artwork on the wall (a gift from an adoring customer), with the throng of students studying away at the bar with laptops plugged in and the relaxed clientele of all ages chatting away, it’s clear their “community as priority” idea remains squarely on the shelf since they opened last summer.
“Everything is local, except for the tea, which is from L.A., and that’s as close as you can get,” continued Rachel, who stocks their pantry with such homegrown favorites as Eat Good Stuff Every Day cookies, Buena Onda empanadas, and Hook & Press donuts. “We help each other’s business get bigger,” she explained with a smile.
Coffee connoisseurs can sip comfortably, knowing that their beans are prepared by the talented craftspeople at Rise Coffee Roasters. The company’s co-owner, Dennis Medina, formerly roasted for Handlebar Coffee in Santa Barbara and Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco. He ensures that all of Old Town Coffee’s baristas are properly trained with a fine eye for a proper pull, but that they can do so without the pretension. I was delighted by the cappuccino’s velvety texture and robust flavor, and I also enjoyed a perfect buzz provided by the hand-blended, organic matcha latte.
“We wanted to make third-wave coffee approachable for everybody,” said Rachel. Her wealth of customer-service experience — honed while working at Starbucks and Trader Joe’s — paired with the couple’s genuine love of people infuses the shop with an easy warmth.
Seeking to open a business together, the Wards noticed the lack of coffee options in Old Town Goleta. “We walked down both sides of the street, from the 217 to Fairview and realized there was no coffee,” explained Tim. “And the space was so cool.” Their coffeeshop is inside the former home of Left Coast Books, which closed a few years ago.
The Wards enlisted the help of friends to remodel the location into something that felt clean and modern yet rustic and homey. The large space showcases the work of a new artist each month, and the shop doesn’t take any cut from their sales. The back patio is home to a Ping-Pong table, plenty of games, and sunny seating.
Since opening in July 2018, the Wards have only intensified their offerings. They hosted a Sofar Sounds concert and two pop-up markets, and they plan to serve beer and wine in the future. The conscientious couple is spreading its infectious energy outside the shop as well, donating coffee every Friday to nearby schools and all their day-old pastries to the Goleta Boys & Girls Club. It’s a lot of work, admitted Rachel with a laugh, explaining, “We’re here more than 85 hours a week each.”
As our conversation draws to a close, a joyful young man and woman stop by our table, proudly toting a baby in hand. “Remember when I came in here four months ago and said I’m having a baby?” the beaming man said, eager to show their new addition to the Wards. As I take in this sweetly spontaneous moment, it’s clear that the love of community goes both ways at Old Town Coffee.
5877 Hollister Ave., Goleta; 845-1550; otcoffeeshop.com.