BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST BURLINGTON – Their story is sweet, their coffee is fresh, and their plans are set.
TJ Widbin and Melissa Cervantes, a married couple who own and operate Lost Bear Coffee in West Burlington, have announced plans to expand in Fort Madison with a larger outlet at the Baxter Sports Complex.
Specialty coffees, frappes, and smoothies will soon be an option for the those traveling on 48th Avenue with a similar concept to the current Lost Bear outlet in the parking lot of Westland Mall in West Burlington.
Widbin said hopes to have the location up by mid-November.
“We were hoping to have it done in October with the fall season and everything, but that’s in a perfect world… and we all know how that goes,” he said.
WIdbin just a year ago was laid off from his job working with computer software and wasn’t sure where he was going to land.
Wibin said he and Cervantes, at one point said a prayer after he had been laid off for guidance.
“We knew that at some point God would open a door. It’s kind of fate because if I had still been working I don’t think I would have taken the chance on doing something like this,” Widbin said.
“My wife just told me to take some time and take a breath. I took a trip to Lebanon, which had already been planned, and then when I came back we heard that Java Shack was for sale and we decided we’d take a chance with this,” he said.
Cervantes has held her name due to her professional wedding photography business, but said the two have a passion for coffee because of how they met.
“We had our first date over coffee so that’s why we have a passion for it,” Cervantes said. “Coffee is something warm that people can come together over so that’s how we developed a passion for doing this.”
But they didn’t meet at the local coffee shop. Cervantes was visiting Kenya at the same time Widbin, a Wever native, was also visiting with friends. The two bumped into each other and started a long-distance relationship and then ended up marrying.
Still not quite 30, Widbin said he originally looked in the Burlington area to expand, but couldn’t find anything to their liking before they were approached by individuals with the Baxter Sports Complex.
The two got started in November of last year when they looked at the Java Shack, which Cervantes said “had good bones, but needed a little TLC, and by Dec. 2 had taken possession of the Westland Mall location.
“They have just been fantastic to work with from the start. They’ve been very helpful in moving this project along.”
Widbin said they need to acquire a special use permit from the city, which is set for a hearing on Sept. 13. He said he would like to start construction on the facility the next day, if possible. The construction is being completed off a design by Widbin who said he can’t draw a lick.
“I just can’t draw at all so, I kind of put this design together using Legos. Myers Construction is going to build the shop and he looked at this and said, “I got it. I can do that.”
Hours of operation for the new shop haven’t been determined because of all the activity at the Sports Complex.
“We think it’s a great location with the sports complex and the schools in that area. We’re happy that it’s a local group we’re working with. A lot of times you pay rent to corporations and it’s nice when you can make those investments with local groups instead,” he said,