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Bloomsbury blends get an update

If you know how to get into Bloomsbury Blends — the coffee shop in Bloomsbury Books — through the back way, you might be an Ashland local.

Many people who have lived here for years don’t know that there’s a direct entrance into the cafe from Ender’s Alley, said Dharmendra Bengali, new co-owner of the coffee shop.

The rear entrance brings you through a short wooden gate into a backyard oasis of trickling water fountains, tall stalks of bamboo, and a cushy patio of mismatched furniture and picnic tables; a lounge you wouldn’t think would be nestled on the downtown strip and is quite hidden behind the surrounding buildings.

Bengali said he and his wife, Kimberly, are working on giving the place a facelift to make it a bit more comfortable for customers to lounge and stay a while.

When the couple took ownership of the cafe in July, Kimberly said, they began to clear out some of the random knick-knacks. They put in new floors and are slowly working to keep the space cozy but with fewer doilies.

The shop was approved for a liquor license this week, and the couple plan to begin serving local beer and wine.

“The goal is to make it super welcoming,” Kimberly said. “We want people to linger, enjoy that glass of wine with friends and just feel comfortable.”

They plan to serve wine made in Ashland, and a couple of local brews too. They’re considering extending the hours if customers want to linger later into the evening. The coffee shop is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Sundays, when it’s open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dharmendra, who has strong Indian roots, said he loves to cook and is working on adding some family recipes to the menu. His newest item is a recipe of his own creation: tandoori chicken wraps.

Kimberly said they want to add some healthful, vegan options to the menu, but will keep all the favorites. In the evenings, the cafe will offer tapas instead of full meals.

They’re also going to have soft acoustic music Thursdays through Saturdays. Kimberly said she’s spoken to the Lithia Park cello player Daniel Sperry about playing in the shop, and they’re open to hosting poetry nights and open mics.

“We definitely want to be respectful of the local establishments and the B&B behind us, so we won’t have any bands or loud music,” Dharmendra said. “We want people to be able to stay a while and enjoy conversation with each other.”

“Ashland is a community full of artists and creatives and this place is like a hub,” Kimberly said. “The regulars here have the most interesting stories. We’re having the time of our lives. I meet sculptors, writers, artists and accountants, you name it, and they’re all at the cafe and hanging out together. The people are lovely.”

The coffee shop features work from a different local artist each month and hosts the artist at First Fridays.

Dharmendra said this life is very different from the one his family came from, but they feel at home in Ashland. The couple and their young daughter lived in Fremont, California, for the past several years.

The last position Dharmendra held was a senior technical manager at a solar company in Silicon Valley. He said the work was high-stress and didn’t bring much sense of fulfillment.

The couple said they’d talked about opening a coffee shop or wine bar, as Dharmendra enjoys crafting his own wine and cooking, but they hadn’t planned to do so for a few more years.

On a road trip this year to visit his daughter in Beaverton, Dharmendra said he stopped in Ashland for gas, took a wrong turn and ended up in town.

Like most transplants in Ashland, he realized how special of a place it is and told Kimberly to check it out.

She found Bloomsbury Blends was for sale and the family made the move.

“We feel like we’ve won the lottery,” Kimberly said.

“Everything fell into place like dominoes,” Dharmendra said.

He said their daughter has started school at Walker Elementary and has acclimated very well.

“It’s very different than what we’re used to but it’s wonderful,” Dharmendra said.

The couple kept all the staff and said they are the perfect team.

“The staff are superstars,” Kimberly said. “They kind of make this place what it is. The perfect people that we would have chosen were already working here, and it was lovely. It feels like a family sometimes, and we hope people feel that when they come in. We want that family feeling and love to be extended to the general environment.”

Kimberly asks that when people come in, they say hello.

“We want to get to know people,” Kimberly said. “There’s so much opportunity for collaboration here. This city feels alive, as if the whole town is breathing. It feels like home.”

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Daily Tidings / Jamie Lusch Kimberly and Dharmendra Bengali are the new co-owners of the Bloomsbury Blends coffee shop in Ashland.
Jamie Lusch / Daily Tidings Bloomsbury Blends coffee shop in Ashland has recently been approved for a liquor license.