Goodbye, Susan’s Garden & Coffee Shop of Corvallis

When I moved to Corvallis last fall, I wanted to find a local shop in town that I would frequent and feel at home in. So when I stumbled upon Susan’s Garden & Coffee Shop just a few blocks from my house, I knew immediately I had found my place.

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My friends will tell you that I often sound like a paid ad for Susan’s: the plant-filled atmosphere is top-notch, the staff is always nice, and the coffee is delicious AND cheaper than anywhere else in town. My roommate and I are looking forward to the walk 299 NW 29th Street, every Saturday morning.

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So when I saw the post from Tim and Susan Yaukey announcing the closing on Wednesday September 21st after 63 years in business, I was devastated. And so, it seems, was the rest of Corvallis.

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Known as “Bird Man,” Jeff Pearce drowned in the Willamette River on September 2, just nine days after his 45th birthday.

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The Post said there would be a huge sale Friday morning “sold out to the bare walls.” Even though I’ve only been visiting Susan for a year, I decided to check it out so I’ll always have a piece of it with me.

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The scene was, well, pure chaos. I arrived 10 minutes before the doors opened and the line had already wound through the parking lot and around the corner. When the automatic doors opened at 9am, I became what I can only imagine what a Macy’s in New York City feels like on Black Friday.

Tim Yaukey said the crowd didn’t thin out until midday, and even then it was hard to keep up with all the pots, plants and knick-knacks flying around.

“People in Corvallis care very, very much about liking local businesses,” he said. “I’ve heard it over and over again.”

He is married to Susan, the apparent namesake of Corvalli’s beloved coffee shop. Her parents opened 29th Street Home Supply in the basement of the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op North Store in 1959, although it wasn’t a co-op at the time. Susan was 4 years old at the time.

In 1964 they moved into the current building and changed the name to Schmidts Gartencenter. Tim and Susan Yaukey bought the business from their parents 14 years ago and added a coffee bar six years ago, which became Susan’s Garden & Coffee Shop.

The decision to add coffee to the mix of plants and garden supplies was “a happy accident,” said Tim Yaukey. He and Susan had come across a bookstore with a coffee kiosk in Massachusetts, and the proverbial lightbulb lit up over Tim’s head.

“I said, ‘We can do that.’ And she said, ‘I don’t want to work in hospitality,'” Tim recalled.

But with enough persuasion and a need to set the shop apart from other gardening businesses in the area, Susan Yaukey finally gave in.

“The coffee portion grew and grew,” he said.

Now that the Yaukeys are approaching retirement age, there’s only so much they can do to physically keep up. They are selling the building believing it will be a prime retail location due to the high foot traffic from the co-op next door.

Tim Yaukey said he will miss customers and employees the most.

“Even though it’s been tough with COVID and everything, what kept me going was coming in and seeing the people,” he said.

I guess that means I’m looking for a new favorite coffee shop. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement, Tim and Susan. Corvallis thanks for the memories.

Joanna Mann (she/she) covers training for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @joanna_mann_.

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