Uptown Shopping Center welcomes new restaurant

Ten years ago, Kagen Cox tasted his first crepe.

“It was a little bit of heaven in my mouth,” he recalled, adding that he and his wife, Jennifer, were on vacation when he discovered the thin French pancakes. “From that point on—whenever we’d take trips—we were always trying to find places that made crepes.”

Now they’re making the sweet and savory treat themselves at Kagen Coffee & Crepes in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland.

The couple dreamed of opening a bistro one day, but it wasn’t until their daughter’s school, Liberty Christian School, put Jennifer Cox in charge of finding vendors for a fundraiser that the bistro idea really started taking shape.

“The school wanted a coffee vendor to come in, and we thought maybe we’d get a little traveling coffee stand—like a coffee cart. We started looking for a place we could rent by the hour to prepare the coffee,” Kagen Cox said. “The church next door to the location we were looking at was excited about getting somebody in this vacant space and suggested we do a brick and mortar location. And when my wife said, ‘It’d be awesome to do crepes and coffee,’ I thought, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

The problem was the 900-square-foot space adjacent to the EastLake Tri-Cities church in the Uptown had been empty for years and needed an overhaul.

The 15,000-square-foot church takes up the old theater space purchased by Warren Luke in 2006. EastLake’s teaching pastor, Brent Johnsen, said the church was in need of more space on Sunday mornings for its youth group.

The church worked with Luke to include an addendum to its five-year lease for the vacant property so it could sublease it while utilizing the space on Sunday mornings.

“We had at least a dozen people do a walk-through of the space,” Johnsen said. “Kagen was the first one to put in his own personal investment into the space, and he had a good game plan in place. We knew he was going to improve the space so much, and it’s a coffee shop setting, so it’s perfect for us.”

After weeks of renovations, Kagen Coffee & Crepes opened for business last month at the south end of the Uptown.

 

Joining the Uptown

The owners painted the walls off white and the ceiling mocha. Exposed duct work and Edison light bulbs provide an industrial feel, but red leather wingback chairs help give the eatery a 1950s flair similar to its neighboring businesses.

“We didn’t have the décor in mind when we started, but it’s perfect for the Uptown,” Kagen Cox said. “We also fell in love with a couch that had that older style with the square arms, that ’50s look. And the wingback chairs make the room pop.”

Gus Sako, owner of Octopus Garden—a novelty item and gift store in the Uptown—said the 1950s décor is in the underlying bones to the shopping center.

“There’s quite a bit of vintage and antique stores, some consignment stores, the church, restaurants—it’s really all over the map,” said Sako, who opened his business in 1976 and now serves as the business improvement district chairman for the Uptown.

“We usually don’t hear about new businesses until somebody signs a lease, but there’s a little more energy and change lately,” said Sako, who said the entire shopping center has several landlords who operate different parcels.

“Kagen’s definitely is coming in during a time of revitalization,” Johnsen added.

One of the biggest changes the Uptown has seen in recent years are the murals being painted on some of the walls of businesses, said Sako.

“It was an idea championed by our contact point with the city of Richland,” said Sako. “They said, ‘Here’s something we can do,’ and the city commissioned an artist to come up with a palette and all the elements that can be used. The business that’s going to get the painting only has to pay for the prep work and has to agree to maintain it for five years.”

Sako said as much as he’d like to see a grocery store move into the Uptown, the complex doesn’t have the physical space to support one. However, he’s pleased to see restaurants joining the mix of businesses there and looks forward to popping into Kagen Coffee & Crepes.

“I definitely have to go there,” he said. “I mean, find somebody who doesn’t like crepes.”

 

Savory, sweet and coffee

The Coxes hired four employees, two of whom work full time. Jennifer Cox makes the syrups and gluten-free recipes. All of the company’s coffee syrups are made in-house, but Kagen Cox said the eatery’s focus is the crepes.

“We’re more versed in crepes than coffee. We’re not claiming to be high-end coffee, just a good cup of coffee and awesome crepes,” he said.

A breakfast crepe filled with eggs, ham, spinach and cheese costs $8. Other fillings include avocado, salsa and lime. Sauces vary from Dijon to pesto and hollandaise.

For customers interested in the sweeter side of crepes, there’s lemon, sugar, Nutella and strawberries.

Kagen Coffee & Crepes is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but hours could change as the business evolves. The couple said they had a better than expected opening day with more than 400 people coming through the front door.

“We thought we bought food for three days but we ran out of most things by 6 p.m. It’s been crazy,” said Kagen Cox. “Everyone has been so nice. We are having a blast.”

For more information about Kagen Coffee & Crepes at 270 Williams Blvd., find them on Facebook.

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