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Coffee Oasis serving up more than a tasty brew
Curtis Zulauf is the kid who came into the Coffee Oasis as a 13-year-old.
He didn’t want anything to do with church, but soon found that was part of the landscape.
Still, they didn’t push him, and he turned to the café as a place to hang out — to escape the drugs he had started using at age 12.
By 16, he was a drug dealer. Two years later, he was incarcerated. An alcoholic. On a downward spiral.
Now 26, Zulauf wants to reach out to the same sort of troubled youths with which he once identified.
And he’s hoping to do that as the director of business development of Coffee Oasis, formerly the Solid Rock Café.
He took over the establishment on Bethel Avenue in October and has given it a new identity.
Former owner Roxanne Harper stayed on to work for him.
“This business exists to provide a place where kids can come,” he said. “It’s a safe environment.”
It’s something he has been working toward since he became a Christian three and a half years ago and started volunteering with Hope in Christ Ministries and later managing the Coffee Oasis on Burwell Street in Bremerton.
It’s his way of paying it forward.
“Hope and Christ paid for my family to get first month’s rent and a deposit down to a place to live when we were homeless,” he said. “They didn’t require us to come to their church or anything. That really stuck out to me and I remember things like that later.”
Now, he is continuing the work.
“It kind of lights the fire in me,” he said. “I know the desperation and the despair kids feel when they’re in that. People aren’t doing drugs because they’re happy.”
As a result of that vision, on Saturday evenings, teens can come, hang out, listen to music and have a free meal. The café also is open from 2 to 5 p.m. for children.
Zulauf said he really enjoys encouraging the kids who come in through job training, which includes a barista-training program.
“The kids we’re talking about are at-risk youth,” he said. “They’re in bad living situations. They’re couch surfing.”
Coffee Oasis is a nonprofit, and Zulauf admits that it has been a reshaping process to be able to make ends meet, pay the bills — and have something left over to put into the ministry.
One thing that has helped is having Harper there.
“Whenever names change, I think there’s some hesitation,” he said. “I think once people started seeing that Roxanne was still here and the food was still great, the scare wore off.”
Zulauf opted to not change most of the menu items, but added a few from the restaurant, drive-thru and coffee cart that comprise his Bremerton branches of Coffee Oasis.
And tops on his list for the Port Orchard location is the pizza, which he calls phenomenal.
“We make our own dough,” he said. “Great toppings. The Greek is amazing ... the barbecue chicken really steals my heart.”
Other offerings include hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups and calzone. They also offer a selection of “goodies” including milkshakes, brownies and 24 flavors of ice cream.
And with WiFi on the way and “excellent coffee,” Zulauf said they hope to dial up the café feel.
Coffee Oasis is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.