Wild Oak Coffee House in Springville
Apr 27, 2016 12:09PM ● Published by Ronda Alvey
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Must Have Coffee
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Tamara Orth
For as long as Elizabeth Bowser can recall, she’s loved her some coffee.
“Oh goodness, I’ve been obsessed with coffee since – I’m going to say at least since I was in high school. I just always loved coffee and the coffee shop atmosphere.”
The Porterville native admits her affinity for coffee only intensified when, during high school, there were few places to study other than a Starbucks. “That’s all there was to do in Porterville,” she says with a laugh.
After high school, Bowser moved from Porterville to the Central Coast, living in the small town of Grover Beach. She worked a few side jobs “here and there,” she says, but still carried a dream, that one day, “Oh man, I would love to be a barista.”
In 2012, while working at a pharmacy, a customer told Bowser about a small café called Coffee Cove and recommended she visit. Of course, the coffee enthusiast needed no small nudge, and once she visited the small cafe, she “hit it off” with two baristas who also were from Porterville – one even went to high school with her brother. I became really good friends with them, and they were actually in my wedding,” says Bowser.
Not long thereafter, her friends asked if she would like a job at the café. “Well, I always wanted to work at a coffee shop, so why not,” Bowser recalls thinking.
“I worked there for about a year,” Bowser says, until she met her would-be husband and returned to the Porterville area. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to do – nursing, perhaps become a teacher? No career really called out to her, however, until she began the job at
“As soon as I started working there, I said, no, I love being around people, I love the atmosphere of the coffee shop and the creativity you have when making espresso drinks. Yeah,” she continues, “I knew from the moment I started that this was what I wanted to do with my life – besides being a wife and mom, which was my ultimate dream.”
By 2015, Bowser had met two-thirds of her ultimate dream – marriage and motherhood – and perfected the triumvirate last November when she opened her own café, Wild Oak Coffee House, in Springville.
Most small coffee shops would probably want to open their shop far from a Starbucks, and Bowser probably couldn’t have gotten much more out of the way. The small town of Springville, which only has about 1,000 residents, is nestled up in the foothills, surrounded by ranches and wildlife. Sure, her coffee house is remote, but in the first months they’ve been open (even in the winter months), they’ve seen a lot of traffic.
In fact, Wild Oak has been so busy that Bowser already has hired help – including her sister-in-law, who also worked at a coffee house in Northern Ireland.
Of course, some of the allure of Wild Oak is that it’s the only place to grab coffee within miles, but that doesn’t mean they’ve settled to sell plain ol’ joe.
More than specialty espresso drinks, Wild Oak serve smoothies and sandwiches, as well as Bowser’s father’s famous homemade, hand-cranked ice cream.
“He started out making ice cream when he was young with his grandpa, and he kept that tradition going,” says Bowser. A former vanilla traditionalist, Bowser’s father has branched out, creating his own recipes for rocky road, coffee almond crunch, a “burnt sugar” that Bowser says “tastes like crème brûlée.”
They also serve lunch specials for $6.95 which include any of their six lunch sandwiches, a bag of chips, a large iced tea, and of course, her father’s ice cream.
Whether it’s the ice cream or the coffee that attracts them, commuters between Camp Nelson and Porterville, the offseason stragglers en route to the park, and yes, especially the locals are happy to have a coffee house they can call their own. Plus, the only thing that makes fresh coffee better is the fresh air you’ll only find up in the hills. Not to mention, says Bowser, “this area has an amazing view.” So it’s little wonder she already has regulars who weekly make the trek from Terra Bella and Porterville just to get a cup of Wild Oak coffee.
Bowser probably would also like to think it has something to do with the way she treats her customers. “We’re very ministry oriented,” she admits. “I promote a smile and Jesus, but besides making you a good cup of coffee, my ultimate reason for opening was that anybody could come in and feel welcome.” •
Wild Oak Coffee House
25692 Bridge St., Springville • (559) 539-5501
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-2pm, Saturday 7am-2pm