Kayak Cafe cruises into Cordova

New craft coffee shop aims to be a hangout spot

Patrons have several seating options within the Kayak Cafe. Photo by Jane Spencer/for The Cordova Times

Walking into the Kayak Cafe, one will immediately notice the convergence of old and new: antique wood shiplap walls and a cozy seating area with modern decor and a bright yellow coffee maker. The drink selection is also a combination of classics and specialty drinks. The Kayak Cafe offers not just coffee, but an art studio, flower shop, gallery and hangout spot. Owner Karen Deaton Perry wanted it to be a “community space for everyone and not for only people who like coffee.”

“I wanted to create something for every demographic in town so that everyone would feel welcome,” she said.

Kayak Cafe owner, Karen Deaton Perry using a nitro whip for one of her craft beverages. Photo by Cathy Renfeldt/for The Cordova Times

Some Cordovans got a sneak peak of the drink menu with tasting parties the cafe hosted before the grand opening last weekend. The cafe was Perry’s idea. The Perry family moved from Oklahoma to Cordova about five years ago, mainly at Karen’s urging. She always thought about owning her own cafe, after working as a barista when she went to college in Fairbanks.

The cafe serves Cafe D’arte coffee. Italian roasted coffee based in Anchorage, with optional homemade syrups: vanilla, coscara (coffee bean), coconut, raspberry and lavender. Multiple coffee extraction processes are offered, including nitro press, pour over and a cold brew tower. One of the lattes has milk infused with cinnamon toast cereal. Another drink, “Save the Rainforest” is a green slushy with locust energy drink and a gummy frog. The “Coconut Bra” is served in a coconut cup and uses a highly caffeinated white coffee bean.

The raspberry “teaspressa” sits on the counter top at the Kayak Cafe on Second Street. Photo by Jane Spencer/for The Cordova Times

Restoring the historical Second Street building took Perry, her husband and father months of nonstop work. The building is believed to have been built in 1908, the same year as the Alaskan Hotel, and previously functioned as a bar, a church and a warehouse.

“It looks completely different,” now, from when they first bought the building, Perry said. “It was like someone turned an old auditorium of a church into a workshop.”

Cathy Renfeldt, executive director of Cordova Chamber of Commerce, with cafe owners Karen Deaton Perry and Trenton Perry at the grand opening of the Kayak Cafe. Photo courtesy of Cathy Renfeldt/for The Cordova Times

When purchased, the space had white walls, with a sheet rock substitute. They pulled off layers of wall and wainscoting to find shiplap behind it. The wood was black until they sanded off years of dirt. They also found editions of The Cordova Times newspaper from 1908 covering the walls.

They removed carpeting and tiling from the floor to find the original flooring with cigarette burn marks still visible from years ago when it was a bar. They kept the old stained-glass window, another detail of the historical character of the house.

Now inside, there’s a sturdy wood table with leather benches, birdcage-like chairs, a window bench, and cozy ottomans for people to sit and talk.

Perry’s art business, Miss Liberty, sells original drawings, Xtratuf boot decals and cards. The cafe features her studio space and will be a gallery for her work and a place for people to purchase it.

“I like to just sit down and draw and make things,” Perry said.

Some of the ingredients that go into the specialty drinks at the Kayak Cafe. Photo by Cathy Renfeldt/for The Cordova Times

When she’s not behind the counter making drinks, you can find her in the studio space, or arranging flowers at the table in the shop.

Alaskans love their coffee and Cordova has more than a few options to get a cup of Joe. Perry said she didn’t want to compete with other coffee businesses, but offer something a little different. Her vision was to feature a specialty menu with items unavailable anywhere else in town, “so people had a reason to come in.” And while she has a vision for what the cafe will be, she’s eager to see how Cordovans will respond and adapt to those demands.

Cordovans came to the Kayak Cafe tasting party to sample the menu. Photo by Jane Spencer/for The Cordova Times
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Jane Spencer is a freelance writer for the Cordova Times. She’s a seasonal resident of Cordova for over 15 years and graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Environmental Studies. She received her Natural Chef certificate in Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, in addition to dabbling as an oil painter and ceramic artist.