Coffee shop owner expands reach to Creekside Café

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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For more than five years, Linda Lareau’s fresh-baked muffins and quiche have been staples at Courthouse Coffee in Old Town Auburn. Now Lareau, with daughter Alison Campbell and grandson Christopher Fryer, have taken over Creekside Café in the Creekside Business Park. “We opened it at the request of Creekside management,” Lareau said recently. “They approached us because they had heard about the quality of our foods and wanted to have something for the tenants.” Lareau does all the baking for the new eatery and the three family members share time working behind the counter. When not helping out in the café, Fryer, a recent college graduate with a degree in English, is working on writing a novel, Lareau said. The menu is a close reflection of Courthouse Coffee’s selections, with soups, sandwiches, quiche, salads and pastries. For breakfast, there are eggs and bagels. But the Creekside site does not have a brew bar for coffee, a specialty at Courthouse where customers can get drip coffee brewed one cup at a time. For Lareau, running the two restaurants plus a kiosk in the Placer County Justice Center is a second career. She spent many years working in child development and has a master’s degree in that field. “I had to take several courses in food service,” she said. “I learned about quantity and quality of food. We worked with children at risk. The philosophy was to feed them fresh produce. We provided a variety of vegetables and fruits from local production.” When she got ready to retire, she knew she wanted work in something that involved cooking. “I’ve always liked to cook,” she said. “I’m self-taught. “ But before she launched into the project she did a lot of research. That included visits to many sandwich shops and coffeehouses in Northern California, and even a trip to Denver to personally taste-test quiche varieties. During her travels, she was particularly impressed with the fair-trade coffee shops in Santa Cruz. “I find experts and use that information,” she said. “At my age, I don’t have time to go to school anymore. It’s been life experiences I’ve had. I’ve brought it all together.” Lareau prepares big portions — large muffins and sandwiches — and likes the idea that customers may decide to share a meal. “It’s more than just a business to me,” she said. “It becomes something you are proud of and try to do the best you can and keep the prices affordable. I have people on a fixed income, (so it’s good for them that) they get a sandwich they can split.” Another part of success is infusing your business with personality, she said. The Creekside eatery has been open less than a month but already has some big fans. Tina Bakken and her husband, Joe, visited the café Tuesday afternoon. The Bakkens said they eat there almost every day. “I love the quiche,” Tina Bakken said. Joe Bakken said the tuna sandwich is his favorite. “They have generous portions and fair prices,” he said. “And they’re very personable people.” Bakken, who works in the complex, said she appreciates having the eatery nearby. The café is not just for the tenants of Creekside, Lareau was quick to say. “We welcome outside visitors,” she said. “We’re getting more and more customers from the neighborhood.” Gloria Young can be reached at ----------------------------------- Creekside Café Where: 11601 Blocker Drive, Creekside Business Park, Auburn Hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday