Owned by a local husband-wife pair, Cafe Columbia at Pybus Public Market is a riverside retreat, perfect for grabbing a quick bite or sitting down to coffee with friends.
Owners Cathy and Dan Rodriguez started out as IT consultants, living and working in Western Washington. The commute was inconvenient and they had young kids at home. It’s hard to watch your kids grow up when you have to drive over an hour to get to work and back.
After buying land in Plain and building a home there, they decided it was time for a change.
It was following the family’s move to North Central Washington that Almond Blossom, Cafe Columbia’s predecessor, was born.
Almond Blossom was a small nut shop in downtown Leavenworth that sold gourmet nuts and other specialty foods: jellies, jams, sauces, salts and the like. It was Dan and Cathy’s first foray into world of owning a small business.
“It was very small, like 800 square feet,” said Dan. “The kids hung out there. They would come home from school with their books and backpacks and run upstairs.”
The shop was successful, and the tourist-driven environment of Leavenworth offered some distinct advantages, but it also had its share of drawbacks. Parking was difficult, and the high employee turnover rate was a challenge. When Pybus opened in 2013, the Rodriguezes jumped at the opportunity to expand into Wenatchee as an original tenant at the public market.
“In the beginning, it was very difficult,” Dan said.
“It was crickets,” Cathy added with a laugh.
Pybus wasn’t an immediate success. At first, many people didn’t even know it was there. Being right on the river helped.
“This river walk here is very popular with people who are coming in to experience Wenatchee,” Dan said. “We are lucky to be on this river walk and get a lot of the traffic that comes in.”
Things picked up gradually, and Pybus Public Market became the bustling community hub it is today.
“We [the original tenants] went on this journey together, learning how to be a market,” Cathy said.
During their second year at the market, Pybus management approached the Rodriguezes and asked them to take over the neighboring espresso stand. The rest is history. Eventually, Cathy and Dan sold Almond Blossom to do Cafe Columbia full time.
The focus at Cafe Columbia is consistency in delivering quality product and superb customer service. Supporting other local businesses is also important to the couple.
“We try to do as much locally as we can,” Cathy said. “Our coffee is local to Central Washington. We buy breads from Bosket Bread in Leavenworth.”
The cafe uses coffee from Blue Star Coffee Roasters in Twisp.
“We’ve been serving that since we opened in 2014,” said Cathy. “When we first got started, we had a little AeroPress (coffee maker) and we served it that way. It’s delicious. It’s really good coffee. And we are happy to be able to serve that here.”
They also source a lot of their food products from the farmers market.
“(The Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market) is such an integral part of what Pybus is,” Cathy said. “ … and so we want to support that in any way that we can. Anyone that comes into the market is good for the market; whether they come in to visit us or go somewhere else, it’s still good for the market.”
Cafe Columbia serves coffee and espresso, as well as a selection of pastries, salads, sandwiches and other light breakfast and lunch options. The menu changes regularly to keep things new and fresh.
Cathy’s current favorite menu item is the Southwest wrap. It’s a vegetarian breakfast wrap, full of vegetarian chorizo and eggs. Dan is a fan of the quiche.
“Our No. 1 selling thing is our bars,” Dan said. “We have a fruit and oat bar, pecan bar and a lemon bar. It’s a go-to with coffee. We sell a ton of bars.”
The cafe also offers catering. Most of their catering is done for events taking place at the market, though they also offer things for pickup and take orders for delivery on a case-by-case basis.
Ultimately, the Rodriguezes are happy they left the west side to do business in North Central Washington.
“Everytime we would come over, we just loved the feel of the community and the pace, away from all the hectic, crazy traffic on the other side,” said Cathy. “It just felt good and we really felt like [Wenatchee] was going to be a great place to raise our kids. We love it here.”
A version of this article first appeared in the October Foothills magazine.