Rick's Place: Standing the test of time

MONMOUTH -- In the 1942 movie classic "Casablanca," American expatriate Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, runs a hopping nightclub called Rick's Cafe Americain.The clientele of Rick's Cafe is a veritable who's who in Casablanca -- Europeans running from World War II, North African business magnates, seedy war profiteers and criminals.Rick's Cafe is where you go to find out what's happening in North Africa -- the fictionalized, 1940s version of North Africa.If you want to know what's going on in Monmouth, hop on over to a similar establishment -- without the rough and tumble clientele.Rick's Place Coffeehouse -- the obvious "Casablanca" reference is intentional -- has been a staple of downtown Monmouth for almost 20 years. On any given morning you're likely to see Monmouth City Council members, local business owners and other area residents huddled together discussing news of the day.Rick and Mary Gydesen opened their coffeehouse in 1995 and have been humming along ever since."My wife and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn a business," Gydesen said. "We devoted a lot of time and energy into it."When the couple opened the coffeehouse at 123 Main St., they were already running a similar operation in Independence, where they roasted their own coffee beans.At one point, the Gydesens were running five coffee-centric businesses in Polk County -- the coffeehouses in Monmouth and Independence, the coffee roasting and wholesale coffee delivery business, and a coffee cart set up at West Valley Hospital in Dallas."I was splitting my time between the three shops. We had a good system going," Gydesen said.A dip in the economy coupled with leasing issues forced the Gydesens to close down the other four operations in 1997 and focus solely on the Monmouth location. They've been serving up locally roasted coffee, artisan sandwiches and robust soups ever since."Rick makes the best sandwich west of the Rockies," Greg Pursley said. "I took a photo of it to post it on Facebook."Pursley, an independent contractor from Illinois, has frequented the shop over the last month while he and his partner are surveying land up and down the Willamette Valley for Charter Communications.The regulars and patrons like Pursley keep Gydesen busy as he is essentially the lone employee at the coffeehouse most days. Bookkeeping and baking assistance from his wife keep the wheels from coming off, he said."Did I ever believe we'd be here 17-plus years? I believe it, but I've had my doubts as to why or how," Gydesen said. "You kind of go by the seat of your pants when you don't know what the outcome is going to be."During their 18-year run in Monmouth, Gydesen can count almost 50 other businesses, most by name, that have come and gone in just a two-block stretch from Knox Street to Monmouth Avenue.Gydesen's encyclopedic knowledge of Monmouth and Independence is almost instinctive. At will, he can dispense information that is privy to only the most nuanced of individuals.There have been rough patches for the coffeehouse; slow days and economic downturns hit every business at some point. Gydesen isn't keen on slowing down, though. Even when the college crowd leaves town for a few months every year, he's there at the shop with a smile."I was tired yesterday and I'm re-tired today," Gydesen said. "People keep saying 'You're still here?' (I'm) 71 and counting and I am not retiring." Pay A Visit What: Rick's Place Coffeehouse. Where: 123 Main St., Monmouth. When: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Offerings: Full coffee and espresso lineup, artisan sandwiches, salads, baked goods and soups (except in summer). Of note: Catering and take out available, outdoor seating, every Tuesday from 2 to 5 p.m. get $2 off any drink. For more information: 503-838-4912; email to ricksplacecoffee@yahoo.com; visit www.facebook.com/ricksplacecoffee.


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