Coffee house blends business and beagle rescue
By JAMES LANARAS / Windsor Correspondent
After 30 years in the Los Angeles area, Tim DeBellis and his partner Gianni Jones were ready for a change. They found themselves vacationing in Sedona, Ariz., in 2010, planning their exodus to someplace with a slower pace of life.
“Ironically, we were sitting in a coffee shop,” said DeBellis, 51.
They decided on a five-year plan they called Project Mayberry, visiting places around the country until they found a spot “best suited for us and us for it,” he said. First on their list were Healdsburg and Guerneville.
“We came to visit in 2010 and immediately fell in love with Sonoma County,” DeBellis said.
He had worked as an aeronautical engineer for Boeing and Northrop Grumman, as a job training program administrator for Antelope Valley College and for 13 years was a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant for national health insurance companies.
Jones is an OB/GYN physician with two successful medical clinics in L.A.
On a visit last year, DeBellis found a bridge to his present career. He learned that the Bungalow Coffee and Tea company was vacating its spot at 540 Larkfield Center.
“I decided to take a leap of faith,” DeBellis said, retiring from PricewaterhouseCoopers in December 2012 and opening Blue Beagle Coffee in February.
Picking a name for the business was easy, he said. His dog Jack is a beagle-lab mix that DeBellis rescued from a Lancaster pound in 2007.
“Jack inspired the name. I knew I wanted the word beagle. The word blue was just a fun name.”
DeBellis retained Bungalow Coffee’s barista India Terr, hired Sal Garcia from Flying Goat Coffee as a roaster, added a food prep employee and another barista, and Blue Beagle Coffee was in business.
Bungalow’s steady customers were concerned the atmosphere and attitude of their local coffee shop would change.
“It was like an old ‘Cheers’ spot,” DeBellis said. “It’s still a local place where everybody knows everybody’s name.”
“It’s casual and orderly at the same time. It’s a fun place to work,” Terr said.
Blue Beagle Coffee imports beans from 20 locations in South and Central America, Indonesia and Africa, and roasts them in a gas-fired, 2-pound roaster. That process removes the moisture from the green beans and turns them brown.
“We tend toward a medium roast which brings out the character of the bean,” DeBellis said.
“We’re not just cranking out pounds and pounds of coffee. There is an art to it. It’s not to be taken lightly,” Garcia said.
In July the menu included Mexican High Grown with hints of milk chocolate; Rwanda Gitesi, with hints of cinnamon and spices; Ethiopian Organic Guji Shakiso with hints of plum and fig; Blue Beagle Espresso’s chocolate, brown sugar and honey blend, and Ethiopia-Columbia Decaf with chocolate, spiced rum and toasted marshmallow flavor.
Twelve-ounce bags range between $11.25 and $14. 50. Blue Beagle Coffee also serves pastries, breakfast burritos, bagels, grilled extra sharp cheddar cheese sandwiches with a tart apple, bacon and honey mustard spread.
DeBellis says he learned during his years working in the corporate world that “good corporate citizens” give back to the community. That compelled him to partner with the Beagle Freedom Project.
The group rescues beagles used in laboratories to test the toxicity of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and household cleaning products, including nearly a dozen labs in the Bay Area.
An estimated 65,000 beagles are used to test products in the United States, selected because they are docile, are bred to be people pleasers, rarely bite and are a good fit for the cages in which they spend their lives, said Shannon Keith, the group’s founder.
DeBellis said he will offer a new “Jack’s Pick” coffee blend from time to time, with part of the proceeds benefitting the Beagle Freedom Project.
“We’re not just here to be a coffee house. We’re here to give back to the community,” he said. “There’s value in providing a platform for Shannon and for making a difference in the beagles’ lives.”
Blue Beagle Coffee is located at 540 Larkfield Center, 535-0776, bluebeaglecoffee.com.