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Highway 2’s Espresso Chalet
keeps the blues away

April 23, 2011

Espresso Chalet own Sandy Klein at left and employee Charlotte Brown at right get ready to close up for the night. Chronicle photo.

LARGER IMAGE OF ABOVE. Espresso Chalet own Sandy Klein at left and employee Charlotte Brown at right get ready to close up for the night. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE

A huge (like in 12 foot tall) carved wooden Bigfoot statue that stands tall at the Espresso Chalet in Index. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE

This chainsaw carved wooden sculpture is called Little Foot (a baby Bigfoot) and sits right outside the front door to the chalet. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The full effect of the Espresso Chalet as it looks from U.S. Highway 2. Employee Charlotte Brown is in doorway. Chronicle photo. CLICK TO ENLARGE
(INDEX, WA) -- It’s almost closing time at the venerable Espresso Chalet on U.S. Highway 2 at Index, Washington where all the women are strong, all the men are pretty and all the kids are so far above average they become Mensa members at age two.

It’s Friday night past 8:30 and the sun has gone and slunk itself way low on the horizon to the point where the faded evening around the Chalet and the surrounding peaks has painted itself that classic blue-gray pastel –- a color that comes just before the night goes totally black ink and the beasts in the forest they call Bigfoot begin to move and wander and forage and do that thing they do.

Tourists love the Espresso Chalet – especially kids – because it has that huge, hand carved wooden Sasquatch (Bigfoot) standing watch over U.S. Highway 2 just a few feet from the Chalet itself.

Bigfoot is the big hairy "missing link" in that evolutionary chain between monkey-like creatures (not actual monkeys mind you, any fool knows that) and modern homo sapiens.

Bigfoot lives in these parts. They are drawn to the Chalet by the aroma of the coffee.

It is against the law to feed them but we hear the Chalet folks do so from time to time just so the tourists will have something to photograph and upload to YouTube on their vacation.

Every once in a while some tourist from Omaha will have the crapola scared out of him when one of those big, lanky, stinky creatures comes walking out of the woods.

But that is a small price to pay for all the free ink a business can get on the Internet when there is a good sighting of the Big Guy.

The Chalet has been a fixture at that spot on Highway 2 for almost twenty years. It’s a working woman/man’s gig. You have to put in the hours.


The stand is open Monday through Thursday 7a to 7p, Fridays 7 to 9 and weekends 7 to 8.

No rest for the weary. They’ll even be open for Easter, bunny or no bunny.

The Chalet beckons the weary traveler on the Highway of Death to stop awhile, enjoy the scenery (it is God awful gorgeous when its not raining) and consume a tasty beverage steamed out of the roasted bean.

And the cost of the material that goes into making those beverages – and other things they need to operate and thus stay in business – is on owner Sandy Klein’s mind as the end of the day slinks into the darkness.

Sandy (she owns and runs the chalet with husband Mark who wears a green Bavarian mountain hat that is big time spiffy looking) will tell you if you ask that the horrible price of gas and other stuff that keeps going up and up is eating into their bottom line as it is eating into every small business’s bottom line.

“The price of everything keeps going up,” says Sandy. She is not happy about that.

She talked about what is cost to get supplies for her biz that day, Friday April 22.

“It was outrageous. A stop at two wholesale houses cost us probably $300 more than it did two months ago.”


Gas prices going up, Sandy says. That’s probably a lot of it. And she ain’t happy a lick about the whole thing. Her advice for the leaders back in Washington, DC?

“Get it together. Put a top on the gas prices and make them quit gouging people.”

The “them” in that equation is always hard to pin down with any specificity says Sandy, but she’s pretty sure it goes way far up the food chain past your neighborhood petrol station and into the high rise office suite of some pasty faced, heavily joweled, double-chinned oil exec in Manhattan.

“Yeah. It’s the people at the top and in the middle and we’re stuck at the end.”

And thus it has always been for the huddled masses (stuck at the proverbial end) since before the time of Caligula and even before that fellow who played his fiddle while Rome burned to the ground.

“The whole world is in disarray,” says Sandy.


But the plus side she says, is all the interesting folks she gets to meet when they stop in for some java and a peek at the scenery.

She loves talking with customers. “I get to meet thousands of people every day,” says Sandy who describes that as one of the best things about her job.

And the next best thing is the gorgeous mountain scenery that is right outside her window.

“Being in this beautiful spot,” that’s the ticket she says.

For Charlotte Brown ,22, who grew up in Skykomish just up the road and who now produces and pours coffee concoctions at the Chalet (and who might like to become a teacher some day, maybe a nutritionist) also likes meeting and talking to customers.

“The best thing (about working there) is our customers because we have a lot of regulars.”

And the worst thing about her job?

“The rain! It rains a lot,” says Charlotte.

And it does. Lordee but it rains a humpload up there.

They get about 66 inches a year on average (88 inches in 1954) and about 60 inches of annual snow falling in addition to the rain.

You have to be a hardy soul to live up there in the Winter months.

Coffee helps a lot.

In fact, our rain slogged climate is one of the reasons sociologists think the coffee craze started here back in the 70’s when Starbucks opened that first small but highly popular store in Pioneer Square in Seattle.

They theorize that because of the long, gray rain-soaked winters here, we gravitated toward drinking lots of coffee as a survival mechanism.

Being perky and wired to the hilt tends to blunt the depression (along with some decent modern meds) one gets from spending winters being pounded into Silly Putty by rain, gray skies and frigid temperatures.

But this night it is not raining. It is simply going dark. Light is fading. The end of the day draws near.

And as the sun finally plopped itself down and went nighty-night, as darkness silently fell over Bigfoot territory, the Chalet began to close down after another day of pourings.

And scribes and their cameras were forced to pack it up and roll it on down the highway.

Which is the way things go in these parts.

tags: bigfoot, sasquatch, highway 2, java, coffee



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