COTTONWOOD - If there's such a thing as too much of a good thing, it might be the overflow of customers gathered in the entry of Jerona Cafe at 677 E. Mingus Avenue.
"After school on Wednesdays, sometimes there can be 30 people lined-up," said co-owner Alan Malkin. "Some people would walk-up, see the line and leave."
So the Malkin family decided to do something about it. By mid-August, Jerona Cafe customers will benefit from a roomier entryway, additional service register and pre-made 'grab-and-go' meals from a spacious new counter.
A ribbon cutting by Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 19, according to Malkin.
Focus on quicker service, expanded menu
"There's a couple things we wanted to accomplish," said co-owner Michelle Malkin. "We wanted to be quicker with the service and we wanted to offer an expanded menu. So many people stop-in for coffee in the morning and take their food with them. We got to thinking, 'How do we better serve the convenience of the community?'"
Jerona Cafe regulars may have already noticed the Phase One updates, including a new street sign, clean walls and renovated meeting room that seats up to 30 and includes a big screen TV with USB computer port.
Next is Phase Two. To accommodate several significant renovations, Jerona Cafe will be temporarily closed from July 30 to about Aug. 10.
Most noticeable will be the relocation of the serving counter about 12 feet back, creating a more orderly flow of customers from the entry to the service counter. Also in the works is an additional cash register to expedite its order-taking capacity and improve turnaround times. A new, longer counter will be installed, with "grab-and-go" food options such as pre-made sandwiches, wraps, salads and beverages. Customers will also notice a more spacious-feel to the seating area after an existing divider wall is removed, although seating capacity will remain unchanged.
"We are also installing an enclosed commercial kitchen to expand our menu choices," said Michelle Malkin. "That way we can include things like hamburgers and fries."
'Directly opposite of Old Town customers'
Since taking over the business last year, the Malkins believe the success of their operation has much to do with its location, which is ideally-situated to serve the Cottonwood community at-large. Unlike the night crowd at other coffee shops, Jerona Cafe concentrates on breakfast and lunch patrons.
"We are directly opposite of Old Town customers," said Alan Malkin. "Old Town caters mostly to tourists. We cater to the locals - - the businesses, hospital, government offices and schools."
To better service its customers, Jerona Cafe takes orders online, delivers business box lunches and makes available a meeting room for booking both during and after business hours. The Malkins also operate a catering service out of the café. In addition, the Jerona Cafe hosts a classic car show the first Saturday of each month.
The Malkins' Jerona Cafe is an example of a family business where "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
Alan has a background in marketing and sales. After moving from Grand Blanc, Mich. in 1994, he and wife Sharon ended-up in Sedona, where Alan ran an art gallery.
Daughter Michelle shares her father's creative and sales skills, with her brother Steve rounding-out the operation as a chef. Steve is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and brings over 25 years of fine dining and catering experience.
"We couldn't have done it without him," Michelle Malkin says. "He has been instrumental to our success. And we want people to know that our staff has been key. They are local kids from our community."
In fact, the Malkins believe that the expansion of services created by the renovation will keep 12 to 15 people employed.
"We believe in living legacy," said Alan Malkins.
Jerona Cafe is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through-Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.jerona.com or phone 928-639-1234.