by Leah Sottile

Potato chips taste great dipped in ketchup. Pretzels are better when slathered with milk chocolate. A shot of tequila should always be mixed with a shot of Kahlua, according to one Inlander writer. They all seem like terrible ideas at first glance -- and too many of the tequila-Kahlua mixes probably is a bad idea -- but the components' truly unique qualities allow them to complement one other.

Combining coffee with a bus is just another one of those strange-but-gosh-it-just-might-work ideas--particularly the purple and white Jumpin' Java Coffee Bus that has become the ingenious brainchild of Tina Solomon.

When tragedy struck her family, Solomon took it upon herself to do whatever she could to support her husband and five children. After moving to North Idaho from the East Coast, she'd become a true coffee connoisseur. She considered facing the disaster by starting her own coffee shop, or opening up her own drive-thru coffee stand -- but she knew that Sandpoint didn't need any more of either.

"I thought about opening a coffeehouse, but I am the kind of person that just has to be on the go," she says.

As Solomon and her husband drove on Highway 200 in Sandpoint, she spotted an old search-and-rescue bus for sale on the side of the road -- a bus that would soon allow her to maintain her on-the-go lifestyle and deliver espresso all over Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene.

"When I saw it, I thought 'mobile espresso.' And my husband said, 'You have lost it.'"

But putting a coffee shop on wheels turned out to be another of those combinations that, strangely, works. Add to the fact that Solomon had never owned a coffee shop or any kind of business before --and the combination seemed even more destined for failure.

After months of gutting, repainting and refurbishing the bus, Solomon finally had her coffee shop on wheels -- a self-contained coffee shop that holds a four-shot espresso machine, blenders, bottles and enough room for six adults to work in the bus. That's not to mention a drive-up/walk-up window and a menu that boasts over 100 flavors and the award-winning Silver Cup Espresso.

Solomon spends her weeks driving the bus around North Idaho, delivering her signature drinks everywhere from businesses to individuals.

"You just give me a call and I'll make it fresh and run it in to you," she says. "I bring the brew to you."

Solomon simply parks the Jumpin' Java bus wherever she's called, and makes the coffee right then and there. She says people love her service because they don't even have to leave their desks to get their morning fix.

Preparing her specialty drinks where they are ordered gives her an advantage over coffee shops that deliver coffee, she says.

"I can just take my time to get there because I just make the coffee fresh, and it doesn't have to be made so extremely hot that it loses the flavor."

Taking her time also means that her customers won't see the Java bus getting a ticket.

"I was just pulled over by the police last week, and I don't speed around town to make coffee," Solomon says. "One of the officers said, 'Wait a minute, I thought you weren't working today. I need my coffee.' I said, 'That's OK, I'll fix your coffee--just don't give me a ticket.'"

When she's done with deliveries, she usually parks and sells drinks out of the drive-thru bus window. Solomon frequently sets up shop (... or bus) on weekends at area festivals and shows. Her bus is at every big sale at Dave Smith Auto in Coeur d'Alene; she has peddled to tired fans at Gonzaga during basketball season. She pays for bus maintenance and gas through the magnetic advertisements that she sells for the side of the mobile coffee shop.

Solomon says she can pretty much do anything coffee-related in her bus--that's why her drive-to-you service has become so popular. She says that another Jumpin' Java bus that solely caters to the Spokane area is in the works -- but she needs to find someone as loyal to the business as she is first.

"It's an idea and design that was put in my mind and I took it and went with it. I did it and here I am, and I am absolutely just thrilled at how it's being supported."

Need your caffeine fix? Call Tina and the Jumpin' Java Bus at (208) 290-4400.

The New Kid on the Block -- There's much more than just a lake in Coeur d'Alene. The always-expanding North Idaho town seems to be constantly announcing the opening of new movie theaters, new housing developments and, of course, new places to eat.

This summer, Red Lobster won't be the only place in town to get seafood. The Bonsai Bistro, a pan-Asian eatery, is set to open up mid-season with owners Duane Hagadone and Jerry Jaeger. Overseeing the new restaurant will be Executive Chef Troy Chandler, who draws on years of experience in working with Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and Malaysian flavors from the kitchens of the Las Vegas Four Seasons, Boise's Happy Fish restaurant and Portland's P.F. Chang's.

The downtown Coeur d'Alene restaurant will boast a full Asian experience -- complete with fountains, waterfalls, Japanese gardens and a koi pond.

Another Anthony's -- With 18 western Washington locations, Anthony's Restaurants has decided to expand eastward. The popular Puget Sound seafood restaurant plans to fill the 8,600-square-foot space that formerly housed Salty's -- a location that provides diners with views of the Spokane River and Riverfront Park. The restaurant plans to open its doors for dinner and Sunday brunches on July 14.

Knife Knowledge -- Do you know how to sharpen knives? No, really -- do you? You can figure out if you do -- and pick up some great cutlery tips -- from Steve of Sharp Stuff during some upcoming free workshops. Classes at Everyday Gourmet run on June 19 at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 2 pm. n

Everyday Gourmet is located at 2829 E. 29th Ave. Call: 532-1800

Publication date: 06/17/04

National Voter Registration Day (Volunteers Needed)

Tue., Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. and Tue., Sept. 28
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...