Baristo dispenses coffee, pastries and insider tips
Anacortes coffee shop owner/baristo Aaron Howell loves to serve a delicious cup of coffee – and he is more than happy to share helpful hints to the city guest seeking “what to do, where to go” advice.
Howell, proprietor of independent Penguin Coffee at 2119 Commercial Avenue, boasts roots in the coffee business dating back to the heyday of Tully’s Coffee in downtown Seattle.
His childhood and youth were spent in urban areas in California and Connecticut (and a brief stint in Brazil), but a Lopez Island youth camp experience seeded a desire to make his home in the Pacific Northwest.
That dream opened with seasons in Bellingham and Seattle. Then his job at Tully’s Coffee presented the opportunity to move to Anacortes.
“I started in the coffee world with Seattle’s Best Coffee in 1988,” Howell recalls. “Then I went to work for Tully’s in 1995. When I was offered a job as manager of the Tully’s shop at Food Pavilion grocery store, I took that chance to get out of the city and closer to the islands.”
Howell quickly fell in love with Anacortes, an iconic island community without the complications of ferry travel to and from the mainland. The Lopez dream morphed into a commitment to Fidalgo Island.
In 2002 Howell embarked on a great business adventure, opting to open his own coffee shop on the city’s main drag. Today he boasts a loyal clientele drawn by lovers of Caffe D’arte, Roasted in Seattle, and an eye-popping menu of baked goods made fresh daily by Jalillah’s Cookies.
The business owner also responds with a smile to daily inquiries from customers who are looking for insider tips on local hot spots.
Howell, who generally walks local forest trails at least once a week, quickly lists his top outdoor adventures. They include trips to the top of downtown promontory Cap Sante, and/or a bit more ambitious trip to take in the breathtaking view from Mt. Erie, just south of town.
He recommends Washington Park on the west side of town near the state ferry terminal, and he strongly suggests: “Walk the loop rather than driving.”
Howell, who not only plays guitar but builds stringed instruments, also points out: “There’s a great music scene in Anacortes,” including indoor and outdoor (seasonal) venues with live entertainment. Current entertainment options are prominently displayed on a post near the main counter.
For those with a desire for a culinary adventure, the baristo and staff are also happy to share ideas regarding local eateries, often making exploratory inquiries in conversation before presenting possible options.
“The community has changed a bit over the years, maybe less of a small town, blue collar feel, but my commitment to life here is stronger than ever,” he said. “I love Anacortes. Wouldn’t consider living anywhere else – and it’s an amazing place to visit.”