After 20 years, Alpen Sierra calls it quits at the South Shore |

After 20 years, Alpen Sierra calls it quits at the South Shore

Adam Jensen
Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneAlpen Sierra Coffee Roasting Company Founder Christian Waskiewicz in the coffee company's South Lake Tahoe retail store Friday afternoon. The coffee shop will shut its doors Sunday.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A two-decade-long caffeine buzz is set to fade away this weekend.

After a 20-year run, Alpen Sierra Coffee Roasting Company will close its South Lake Tahoe retail store Sunday, said Founder Christian Waskiewicz on Friday.

“It’s a sad, sad announcement,” Waskiewicz said.

A “perfect storm” of factors led the roastmaster to close the retail end of the company and focus on its core product, roasting specialty coffee, Waskiewicz said.

“Market forces have required that we do downsize, and unfortunately we’ve had to make a tough decision about our retail outlet,” Waskiewicz said.

The highest cost for coffee in 34 years, the South Shore’s population decline and the state of the gaming industry all played into the decision to shut the coffee shop, Waskiewicz said.

Alpen Sierra originally opened on James Avenue and Tahoe Keys Boulevard in 1991. It moved to its current location near Stateline 12 years ago and opened roasting facilities in Carson Valley in 2007.

Waskiewicz stayed upbeat as he explained the decision to close the coffee shop to longtime customers Friday afternoon, but said laying off staff has been difficult. Four full-time and six part-time employees will lose their jobs as part of the closure of retail location.

“The toughest and saddest part of the change is the jobs,” Waskiewicz said. The sense of community Waskiewicz found by creating a local meeting is also “near and dear” to his heart.

Holding two one-pound bags of Alpen Sierra coffee beans Friday afternoon, South Lake Tahoe resident JoAnne Jones recounted solving problems over a cup of coffee at Alpen Sierra’s original location shortly after it opened.

She said she doesn’t make it down to the east end of town much, but said she still makes a point of picking up the coffee roaster’s organic, sustainable brew.

“They’re going to be sorely missed,” Jones said.

Alpen Sierra coffee will still be available at Alpina Cafe, Blue Angel Cafe, Red Hut Soda Fountain, Lakeside Inn Coffee Bar, Grass Roots Natural Foods and numerous other locations in Northern Nevada and California.

Waskiewicz said he hoped to return to the South Shore in the future, but couldn’t give a timeline Friday.

“At this time, it’s ‘see you later,’ not farewell,” Waskiewicz said.

The closure of the locally focused coffee shop may be the end of an era at the South Shore, but the area has also seen numerous national chains pull up stakes in the past several months.

Napa Auto Parts, Ace Hardware, Blockbuster Video and Midas have all closed South Lake Tahoe branches recently.

In an e-mail, Midas spokesman Robert Trooper said the closure of the South Lake Tahoe store was part of the termination of franchise agreements with five Midas shops in Northern California and Northern Nevada.

He declined to discuss why the auto shop typically terminates a lease, citing pending legal issues.

“We are attempting to re-franchise the other four shops, but not South Lake Tahoe because we do not have real estate control of the site,” Troyer said.

Blockbuster began closing some of its 3,000 stores in February as part of a “recapitalization process,” according to a Blockbuster spokesperson.

The video rental company declared bankruptcy in September.

Snow stacked up in front of Blockbuster’s now-vacant South Lake Tahoe outlet Friday.

Representatives of Ace Hardware did not return requests for comments on the closure.

While the number of empty storefronts at the South Shore doesn’t paint a promising picture, how many businesses have closed at the South Shore since the 2006 housing downturn is unknown.

South Lake Tahoe does not keep track of business closures, said spokeswoman Nancy Kerry.

Between renewals and startups, the city issues about 3,000 business licenses each year, Kerry said.

– Tahoe Daily Tribune editor Annie Flanzraich contributed to this report.

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