“I love coffee, I love people, and I love Camas,” said Jodi Vaughn, owner and operator of Caffe Piccolo in Downtown Camas.
More than a decade ago, when the previous Caffe Piccolo Paradiso went up for sale, Jodi felt it was an immediate opportunity for her. “I didn’t have barista experience and never worked in a coffee shop, but I was driven to learn as much as I could and as fast as I could.” The previous owner, Pam Brown, and the staff helped teach Jodi the basics. “It was full steam ahead from that point.”
But choosing to invest in Downtown Camas came from her love for the community … her choice to raise her children in this community. “We chose to get involved in the community here. So, it was a really easy decision to open a business here and serve as a gathering spot for Camas,” she said.
It was a leap of faith, Jodi explained, opening her doors without any prior experience in the coffee business. “I went to an industry trade show right after buying the coffee shop and took advantage of every mentoring opportunity that was offered. Most importantly, I asked our customers and listened to their ideas. Then, we worked to continually improve the experience we offer them each day.
Jodi said Caffe Piccolo is “blessed to have an awesome team of baristas,” and they have a genuine love for their customers. In turn, Jodi said that makes for a warm and inviting, friendly place for people to visit.
“For many of our customers, Caffe Piccolo is that third place for them between work and home, and we want to do everything we possibly can to give them a great experience and be a positive moment in their day,” she said.
The original name for the coffee shop, in English, translates to “little paradise.” Jodi said it was their vision to create a place where customers could capture a little piece of paradise in the midst of their day by offering the finest Italian coffee, accented by Italian-inspired menu items and served with love, compassion and kindness. They have since expanded their menu, relocated to the current storefront on 4th Avenue and Cedar Street, and added more seating. But they’ve stayed true to their heritage.
The smell of roasting coffee attracts visitors to the storefront by the droves. And it’s those visitors and tourists that Jodi said they want to remember Camas vividly, all the sites and senses. With the Camas Hotel across the street, the coffee shop sees visitors from around the world, and there are many repeat visitors who come to the Camas area for hiking and biking, stopping in on a trip through the Gorge. “And our local boutiques and unique restaurants and emerging local breweries attract folks from across the river. People are discovering Camas, and that benefits all downtown businesses.”
So what’s the secret recipe for success in downtown? Jodi said there is “a community spirit in Camas that makes this town unique and charming. Whether it’s many regulars that make Piccolo part of their day… or a men’s group doing Bible study… or the school administrators from Skyridge and Liberty talking about serving students… or city leaders meeting with interested community members… or business associates getting a deal done; their love for this community and pride toward Camas is a common bond that each carries with them in their own unique way. It’s what makes this such a special place, and that is about much more than just coffee.”