ASHLAND — Evo's Java House customers found more than a cup of coffee waiting at the counter earlier this week.

ASHLAND — Evo's Java House customers found more than a cup of coffee waiting at the counter earlier this week.

A handwritten note announced new owners had bought the business and will take over the helm on Jan. 1.

Reactions from the regulars ranged from outright crying to probing into the new owners' plans for the business, which has been in the same location at 376 E. Main St. for 18 years.

"Overall, we've received tremendous feedback from well-wishers who are very supportive of our future adventures," said Debbie Loray, who has owned the shop with her partner, Brandon Bryant, since January 2004.

She said the decision tugged at her heartstrings.

"The best part of this business is the people we've gotten to know and love here," Loray said. "They've reminded us how fantastic people can be and it will be hard not seeing them as frequently."

The two put the business up for sale about six months ago.

"Mostly we did it because we're looking for new adventures," said Loray, adding that Flamenco dancing in Spain is high on the list of possibilities.

The new owners, Brigette and Dan Cooke, will become the fourth set of Evo's owners. They recently moved to Medford from San Jose, Calif., where Brigette ran a preschool and Dan worked in the laser industry. Both were semi-retired and ready to "drop out of the rat race" when they made the leap to buy the coffee shop.

"One day we went into Evo's, fell in love with the ambiance immediately, found out it was for sale and here we are," said Brigette.

For many, Evo's is more than just a community coffeehouse. The eclectic building is filled with art, from the chandelier to the paintings on the walls to the photographs in the bathroom. Mostly local artists created the 18 pieces.

Many patrons come to play chess, eat a vegan meal, drink organic coffee or just sit and chat with whoever's nearby, thanks to the close proximity of tables.

"You really see people interacting with each other here," said Loray. "There aren't too many places like that since most coffee shops today are drive-thrus."

The Cookes said they understand that Evo's is a local institution and want to continue that legacy. All eight employees will be staying on and the first couple of months will be business as usual.

The Cookes have a few plans that will add their own flavor to the place, however.

"Brandon put up a gazebo, and we'd like to put a patio around that and upgrade the deck," said Brigette Cooke.

Loray and Bryant own most of the current art pieces, but Brigette said she wants to meet with Ashland artists and come up with a rotation to showcase their work.

Michele Mihalovich is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 842-3456, ext. 226, or mmihalovich@dailytidings.com.