July 18, 2014

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Coffee in a Kiva: Unique Escalante Business Keeps Tourists Fresh and Fed

By Rachel Madison

July 18, 2014

Barrie Ence saw the American dream achieved firsthand when her father, the late Bradshaw Bowman, built the Kiva Koffeehouse in Escalante in the 1990s.

“My father was 84 when he started the project and he was 87 when we opened,” said Ence, who now co-owns the shop with her daughter, Sara Zorzakis. “It was a lifelong dream for him and he pulled it off.”

Bowman had moved his family to Utah from California in the early 1970s, and for 40 years dreamed of building a coffee shop. When he reached his 80s, he was finally able to make his dream a reality. The shop is shaped like a kiva—a large, circular, usually subterranean structure that was designed and used by Pueblo Indians for ceremonial and political gatherings. While the structure isn’t subterranean, it is crafted from logs, stone and glass. The 13 ponderosa pine logs that make up the perimeter were collected by Bowman over a two-year period in forests across the West, Ence said.

“He had young people that worked for him that would go scout out places and bring them back and stockpile them,” Ence said. “He physically didn’t build the kiva, but he created it. He was the orchestrator.”

Some of the logs used to construct the kiva have nearly 300 rings. The smaller interior logs and rafters are spruce, while the latillas come from lodge pole pines. The sandstone walls were quarried from the property’s on-site quarry.

“The stone wall is absolutely gorgeous,” Ence said. “It took a year and a half to build. [The builders] put each stone exactly where [my dad] told them.”

After opening the Kiva Koffeehouse, Bowman got the itch to build again. This time, he wanted to build a cottage on the property for travelers to stay in as they explored the Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon areas of the state.

 “In 1999 when he was 88, he started the Kiva Cottage,” Ence said. “It was his next big project that kept him going. He got the foundation poured and some of the structure up, but then he passed away. It took us three years to finish it. It’s one cottage with two rooms [for rent].”

Although Ence had been working for the business since it opened in 1998, she didn’t take over until her father passed away on Christmas Eve of 2000. Today, she and her daughter run the business. Ence also has granddaughters who work there, making it a four-generation family business.

Ence said the shop and cottage’s location on Scenic Byway 12 has served the business well, bringing tourists in from local cities and European countries alike. The shop serves a variety of homemade foods, including pastries, breads, breakfast dishes and sandwiches and soups.

 “We really make an effort to do everything homemade and we use fresh produce,” Ence said. “Our menu does change frequently. If we get a lot of spinach one week, we do a lot of spinach dishes, but we almost always have a southwest scramble, which is eggs, a really good salsa, pepper jack cheese and black beans. That’s really popular.”

Ence said the shop always has vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options on hand, and since it opened, has served coffee from Salt Lake Roasting Company.

“We have people who come from Europe who tell us it’s the best coffee they’ve had since they got to [America],” Ence said. “We serve a medium blend house and always have a dark roast. We also have a full espresso bar.”

Ence says the business strives to maintain its quality—something she feels is already being passed down to her grandchildren, who will hopefully take over the business someday.

“I have a granddaughter who is 15 and has basically been at the business since she was 3. I believe she could run it right now, because she’s observed and learned. She wants to go to cooking school, so maybe she’ll broaden our horizons in the future,” she said. “We have had so many people who have stayed here and told me what a special treat it was. It’s like being Santa Claus. We’re pretty lucky.”

The Kiva Koffeehouse and Kiva Kottage are open annually from March 24 (Bowman’s birthday) until the last week of October. The coffee shop is open daily, with the exception of Tuesdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.kivakoffeehouse.com.

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