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Q&A with Eric and Kelly Thompson of Kokanee Coffee

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Intentional connection with every cup of joe

By Abigail Thorpe | Photo By Rachel Adair

Eric and Kelly Thompson met on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington while Eric was serving in the Coast Guard, and both had the dream of moving to Sandpoint for many years. Originally both from small towns, each was inspired to create a place where people could come in and feel part of a community, like family. In September of 2020, the couple purchased Kokanee Coffee, fulfilling both dreams.

Today, they operate the business as a way to connect with the community and serve one delicious cup of coffee in a warm, inviting environment that is open to all. They roast all of their coffee fresh in house and take every opportunity to pour into others—both caffeine and a helping hand.

Q. How has Sandpoint been instrumental in Kokanee’s success and story, and what makes this area such a special place to run a coffee shop and be part of the community?

A. The Sandpoint and Kokanee community has truly welcomed us with open arms, which is a true testament to the people within our area. Kelly and I were very transparent about our intentions, which are to elevate God’s kingdom, which has drawn a lot of people to Kokanee. Our goal is to offer a great product and to be a beacon within the community, where everyone that comes through our doors is greeted with a friendly face and a welcoming heart. Kokanee is so special to so many because of those sincere and intentional interactions.

Q. How is Kokanee an active part of the community, and in what ways do you give back?

A. We are extremely community oriented and like to serve and give back when we can. We like to honor each veteran, military member, police and fire service member with a discount on each purchase. We understand that our freedoms are not free, and we need to offer a small “thank you.” Within Kokanee’s walls we take the opportunity to pray with people openly and offer a prayer wall for those individual needs. On a larger scale, we also have been graced with the opportunity to work with local churches, Bonner County Chaplains, Life Choices Pregnancy Center, Freedom House, Bonner Gospel Mission, TrustVets and youth organizations such as various Sandpoint school programs and Sandpoint Composite Mountain Bike team.

We have been integrated into the fabric of this community by simply seeing a need and using Kokanee as the platform to help to support others. We recently just started doing a monthly veteran feature called Coffee with Vets. This allows the stories of various veterans to reach our community and, more specifically, our youth. It has brought us tremendous joy to be involved with these organizations.

Q. What sets Kokanee apart as a local coffee shop?

A. We understand that Kokanee has the opportunity to be so much more than just another coffee shop. Coffee is everywhere, and we understand that we have to offer an experience for people to choose us over other establishments. Sandpoint has some amazing coffee and cafés. For us to have the customers we do is just simply amazing.

I think the special factor about Kokanee is the intention behind everything we do. Whether it be interaction with each customer, small-batch coffee roasting, homemade soups, baked goods or hand-stamped “Jesus loves you” on every cup of coffee, each aspect is a recipe to make our customers feel thought of.

Our vision for Kokanee is to offer that personal connection with not only those serving you but the community within our shop. Our customers are truly so welcoming and inviting to all, which is something that is just a representation of the Sandpoint area. It brings us pride to even be a part of the Kokanee Coffee story. There is no denying that it is a special place.

Q. How is community central to the vision and long-term goals of Kokanee?

A. Community is everything to a sit-down coffee shop, and our community is the reason that Kokanee even exists. It brings us such joy to see a lot of the same faces daily, and we love them like family. Our customers know our kids, go to the same church, pray for us and we pray for them. We are family. Kelly and I love helping families and individuals in times of celebration and crisis. We understand that our long-term goals of expansion and growth will have the community in mind. We would love to expand to an additional location as well as partner with other businesses to elevate the community of Sandpoint.

Q. What are some long-term goals for Kokanee Coffee, and what do you hope to accomplish through the business?

A. We are aiming to become mission-led when it comes to acquiring our beans from various regions of the world. Coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world. Most countries are impoverished and lacking a hope of education, health care and self-reliance. We want to do more than just acquire coffee from these amazing countries, we want to offer the hope of something greater through the Gospel. On a local focus, we want to continue to elevate our involvement within our youth sports and social clubs. We want to continue to integrate with other local businesses to help our local community.

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