Mother and daughter team Jody Stark and Tara Frode are self-described “Key Peninsula locals” since 1976. These two versatile and multitasking entrepreneurs are looking forward to celebrating eight years in business this April as co-owners of Ravensara Espresso.

Their business is located at the quaint landmark known locally as “Collins Corner,” just north of the brush shed at the intersection of 118th Street and State Route 302, and is housed in the same unique building as Serenity Salon, filling the store with healing aromas and peaceful ambiance.

Tara Frode (left) and her mother, Jody Stark, enjoy being able to sell organic espresso to State Route 302 customers. Photo by Mindi LaRose

Customers are welcome to either use the drive-up window or come in through the salon and order their gourmet espresso drinks right from inside the building.

Both women share a passion for the organic and healthy products they brew and sell, and also offer preservative-free goodies from Suzy’s Bakery in Gig Harbor. In addition, they are proud to offer a new protein drink, which has been well received by customers.

Stark was studying aromatherapy at the time of Ravensara’s inception, and the two decided to name the business after the tree of the same name that is found on the island nation of Madagascar. Island people there extract an essential oil from the tree, which is known “as the oil that heals.” Ravensara is considered to be a very good oil to use in blends, as it lends intelligence to the drinks.

According to the two women’s “coffee philosophy,” the most intelligent and healthy way to drink espresso is by starting with Tony’s locally roasted organic espresso beans using the Italian brewing method.

Customers who choose the drive-thru can expect fun, fast and friendly service; but beware, as they will also be met by the “enigmatic Indonesian wooden tip box” that has enjoyed its designated spot on the espresso pass-through shelf from day one.

While some have become upset by its “pagan features” and left notes to have them remove the tip box, most customers have found the humor in it, assigning it a gender and pet name, some even naming it after their spouses. Everyone seems to have a need to comment about it.

The wooden statue mysteriously disappeared just recently, only to be found on the lawn of one of their regular customers, who brought it back, much to the relief of its owners. Frode and Stark had purchased the carving at an import store with the intent that it be used as a tip box, and were then told it had protective properties and it would bring prosperity to people who owned it. Both women are happy to report they have prospered, but will also attest that prosperity came by implementation of a strong work ethnic, and not by luck.

Frode worked at an espresso stand while attending the University of Washington and received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies.  She learned a lot about the espresso business while working her way through college. When the two started their business, each worked 60-plus hours a week for about four years. Their hard work paid off; they now have four employees, who have been trained for four weeks to ensure consistency in product preparation. Thanks to their employees, the owners say they have more free time to volunteer in the community and pursue other business interests.

Stark wears many hats and has lived in her unique A-frame home for 32 years. She loves art and describes her home as a showcase of art, also having done much of the outdoor landscaping herself. As an educator, she enjoyed teaching high school English and sociology; prior to opening Ravensara she owned and operated a landscaping design and construction business in Gig Harbor. Three years ago, she branched out into the mortgage business, working mainly from her home office as a mortgage loan consultant. She and her daughter are both active members of the Key Peninsula Business Association.

Frode moved to her Longbranch waterfront home from Minterwood a couple of years ago with her young family and enjoys spending more time with them as well as attending Key Peninsula Planning Board meetings. Her husband works for her father, Paul Frode, a Longbranch resident who owns Coast Rail. Younger brother Shane also works for his dad and just recently moved to Longbranch along with sibling Blake.

And, as if they didn’t have enough going on, this enterprising mother and daughter’s future plans include opening up a Ravensara at Key Center. It will be a sit-down espresso café, and since Key Center is definitely on the uptick, it will most surely be a popular spot!

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