A Clean Slate

(First published in the August 15, 2019 issue of City Pages)

A quartet of friends open a new café in Rothschild.


Clean Slate Coffee House partners, from left, Kyle Mosko, Jen Fox, Karen Mosko and Damien Donathan.

The idea of going into a partnership with friends to start a coffee house had been pretty appealing right away to one of the partners, Kyle Mosko. His level of certainty three months ago though was only about 70%, he recalls, “until I had that dream.”

Kyle, his wife Karen, and their employer Damien Donathan, had met their mutual friend Jen Fox for lunch one day, the main topic being Fox parting company with Condor Coffee in Weston, where Kyle and Damien had been regular customers. One of them floated the idea of starting their own café, and within a month they had a business plan and had leased a new space on the main drag in Rothschild, in a location that had been a café for years, under different names and owners—Wooden Cup and more recently Periwinkles.

“The reason Damien and I were going to Condor every day was because of Jen, so when we had the opportunity to work with her…,” Kyle says, trailing off.

Back at home after that lunch, Kyle and Karen talked over the possibility pretty thoroughly, and that night Kyle had the dream. “In my dream Karen was walking me through this coffee house and showed me the chalkboards and said we’d call it Clean Slate Coffee House,” Kyle says.

The couple knocked on Jen’s door the next morning, nailing down their commitment. Kyle’s uncertainty had vanished.

His dream was detailed enough that their Clean Slate coffee shop at 1027 Grand Ave. is essentially his dream made real, from the counter with big signs listing beverage choices to big chalkboards on two walls and a smaller one that provides kids a place to draw while their parents relax.

Confidence in their future oozes out of the four partners. Jen’s parents ran a coffee shop, so she grew up around this kind of business. “I’ve always loved coffee,” she says. “My dad said it’s in my blood.”

Damien, as the owner of Affordable Refrigeration, brings skills with mechanical and building challenges. The Moskos sense a need for a coffee shop like theirs in this part of the metro area with a focus “on the customer experience,” Kyle says.

Damien says they plan to display local artists’ work and to create space for live music and workshops on art-related topics like floral design or photography. Karen likes the idea of bringing in a Chalkfest artist to decorate a wall panel for a week. And then, like Chalkfest itself, “Every Monday, our wall will be clean.”

Damien says the idea is, “You get people into the coffee shop that are not normally in a coffee shop, they’re going to come back.”

Clean Slate’s main coffee supplier is Redwood Street Roasters, based in Edgar. They’re also carrying Espresso Bay products and plan to bring in guest roasters to showcase new coffees.

Clean Slate has a full range of coffees, smoothies, frappes, espressos, plus nitrogen-infused cold-brewed coffees. Hours: 6 am–6 pm Mon.–Sat., 7 am–4 pm. Sunday. 715-298-0394.