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New owner spoons up small changes for cafe

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WENATCHEE — Same baristas, same atmosphere, same in-house roasted beans.

But Caffé Mela’s new owner Kyle Hendrickson says new ideas for the downtown coffee shop are percolating, too. “My main goal is to not screw anything up,” he laughed. “But this is Mela 2.0, so there’ll be a few changes — mostly incremental at first.”

Hendrickson, chief financial officer for Foreman Orchards, is the public face of a local partnership that last month bought Caffé Mela from founders Darren and Emily Reynolds, who opened the restaurant in 2006 and quickly shaped it into a popular social hub for Wenatchee’s commercial core.

Over the years, the 4,500-square-foot restaurant expanded offerings to include breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, live music by headliner bands, monthly art exhibitions, short plays, readings and other performances. The cafe also introduced some of downtown Wenatchee’s first sidewalk seating.

I come here almost every day and probably have been one of Mela’s best customers,” said Hendrickson. “I’ve seen it evolve into an important place for customers to socialize, network and do business. When I heard it was for sale, I immediately looked into the possibility of buying it.”

Hendrickson has split the original operation into two companies — Caffé Mela LLC (the restaurant) and Mela Gourmet Coffee Roasters (a coffee wholesaler) — and named longtime Mela employees to head-up each branch.

Seven-year employee Brian Bailey will run the roasting operation (in May, he roasted 2,400 pounds of green coffee beans), with outside sales handled by Darren Reynolds, who’ll continue to work with the company. Chaz McClaine, an award-winning barista and seven-year Mela employee, will oversee the coffee shop and its seven staffers.

Said Hendrickson, “I’ve practically no restaurant experience, so it’s important to have these guys as hands-on managers of all these different aspects. I can crunch the numbers, but they’ll be running the different operations.”

Tweaks to the business will start with expansion of food and drink offerings, said Hendrickson. Breakfast sliders (ham, sausage, egg on a small bun) have already been introduced and a couple of new omelettes are on the way. Sit-down lunches and weekend brunches are possibilities. And, on the roaster side, a new bean and additional coffee blends are in the works.

Other changes could bring a re-configured outdoor seating area and a remodel of the cafe’s upstairs into meeting and banquet rooms. An earlier opening each morning is being considered. Square Productions, a company run by Darren Reynolds, will continue to schedule live music for Mela’s indoor stage.

We’re trying to make sure all changes are positive changes,” said Hendrickson. “Our team has tons of experience and lots of good ideas. We’re hoping to continue tradition but add a few nice touches along the way.”

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business. follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.