Danielle and Robby Clarkson's journey to small business ownership began with a dispatch to Smith River one autumn evening.
Java Hut owner Adrienne Anthony had phoned the Sheriffs Office at midnight to address a false alarm. Robby, a Del Norte County sheriff's deputy, arrived.
"I kiddingly said, 'You too could have a business 24/7,'" Anthony said, remembering her conversation with Clarkson about nine months ago. "A couple of weeks to a month later, they called and wanted to talk to us."
With the help of his parents, Robby and Danielle Clarkson assumed ownership of the Java Hut stores at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds and in Smith River on July 1, just in time for the Fourth of July crowds.
"We always wanted to own a business and we really like Java Hut specifically," Robby Clarkson said. "I think it's gone well. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun too."
It's a time of transition for the well-known coffee shop, but Danielle Clarkson said Java Hut's menu will stay the same, its hours won't change and customers will continue to be served by the same baristas.
The Clarksons have lived in Del Norte County for three years. Danielle Clarkson trained with Anthony for more than a month before taking the reins as new owner.
"The reason why this is going to work is because we love Java Hut as it is," Danielle Clarkson said. "There's nothing about it that we want to change. This is a business that works."
Anthony recalls that her daughter, who had been working at a coffee hut called Jitter Bean at the fairgrounds, persuaded her to purchase the store from the owners in 2001. She and her husband, Tony, her sister Marianne Shannon and her brother-in-law Bob, rechristened it Java Hut.
Over the years, the Anthonys expanded the Crescent City store, adding a deck for their customers, a building to store supplies and a restroom for the staff.
Last year Shannon moved from Southern California to Del Norte County and the Anthonys decided to enclose the deck at the Crescent City shop, adding chairs and tables.
"Del Norte County is inundated with sideways rain. An open deck is not good," Tony Anthony said. "We thought we owed it to our walk-up customers to put in an enclosure."
In November 2012, around the time Anthony and Shannon began talking to the Clarksons about purchasing the Crescent City and Smith River coffee shops, they opened Java Hut Express in the new Walmart Supercenter.
Even though the Clarksons now own the two drive-through Java Huts, Anthony said she and her sister will continue to own Java Hut Express in Walmart. Java Hut Express is currently in a five-year lease with the corporation, Anthony said. She said she decided to sell to the Clarksons so she could partially retire and ensure that the things customers love Java Hut for stay the same.
"We hadn't listed it," Anthony said, referring to the two coffee shops. "We believed a door would open and we would walk through that door."
Danielle Clarkson said she will manage the two stores, taking care of the day-to-day business with the help of her husband, who will continue his job at the Sheriffs Office. Robby Clarkson's parents, who live in the Bay Area, are their partners.
"It's been great," Danielle Clarkson said. "I'm excited about the future and getting started with the business."
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com.