Fill it up, with premium cappuccino Full-service station pumps fancy coffee

November 23, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

A fill-up and a cappuccino amaretto? An oil change and an espresso to go?

John Englehart, owner of J&B's Texaco on Ritchie Highway, couldn't see it at first. Still, he was intrigued by the idea that Jean Henderson pitched to him one day: a drive-up espresso stand at his Glen Burnie gas station.

So intrigued, in fact, that he agreed to let the budding entrepreneur, a 60-year-old retiree, open KC's Expresso in a 5-by-8-foot construction shack on his lot.

At first, Mr. Englehart recalled, "I kind of went, 'What? What's that? Cappuccino? Is that some kind of coffee? Most people haven't ever heard of it. They don't know what the hell it is.' "

But he decided to take a chance. And the question now is, will Cafe Latte and vanilla nut cappuccino take Glen Burnie by storm?

Mrs. Henderson thinks so. After all, espresso stands are the rage on the West Coast, especially in Yakima, Wash., her former hometown.

In that community, farmers shopping for supplies routinely stop off for a cup of fresh-brewed with, perhaps, a touch of hazelnut, she said.

"Everybody should have a good cup of coffee," said Mrs. Henderson, who recently retired and moved to Odenton to live with her daughter and business partner, Kathleen Thorp, 28.

"The Baltimore area and people are more sophisticated than any farmers," she said. "I don't see why it shouldn't be as popular here as it is on the Coast."

Her own love of espresso and cappuccino, which is made with espresso beans, steamed milk and foam, drove her to her second career. While working in Washington in telephone repairs and service, Mrs. Henderson stopped at roadside stands at least three times a day.

When she came east, she just couldn't do without espresso stands. Even the espresso maker in her daughter's kitchen wouldn't do.

"It doesn't have the steam pressure necessary to get the essence of the coffee into the cup," she complained.

So she searched for the perfect business location and found it when her car broke down near the Texaco station. While getting her car fixed, she noticed a snowball stand and pitched her idea to Mr. Englehart.

She and her daughter rented the tiny shack, barely big enough for one person, and installed a coffee grinder, a refrigerator, a sink, a water heater and a permanent aroma of coffee beans.

With an ornate, gold-trimmed espresso machine, Mrs. Henderson whips up fresh, foaming coffees in seconds.

Regular prices are $1.50 for espresso and Cafe American and $1.75 for cappuccino, with 25 cents extra for chocolate almond, black walnut, Irish cream and praline cream flavors.

The coffee business has diminished her desire for coffee; she has cut her daily consumption from 12 cups to three.

To boost his service station business, Mr. Englehart has run a promotion since the stand opened a week ago.

Any customer who buys eight gallons of gasoline gets one free cup of cappuccino. Such promotions -- he once offered snowballs and steamed crabs -- have helped him increase sales volume since he bought the station two years ago, he said.

With the coffee giveaway, Mr. Englehart has seen customers with an attitude of "If I don't know about it, I don't want to touch it," he said.

But many who have tried the coffee for the first time have come back for more.

"People seem to want to try mysterious things," he said.

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