"Local Personalities"

Kate Donahue, Coffee Cantina

by Maggie Van Ostrand

In 1988, Toronto-born Kate Donahue arrived in Frazier ("I love it here") Park after leaving her Lebec job as a heavy-equipment operator (snow plow) for Cal Trans and later, for State Parks. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley with eight siblings hinted that she could do anything she set her mind to.

She owned a video store in Lake of the Woods and discovered hidden entrepreneurial talents. In a conversation with good friend, Harvey Lytton, "the sweetest old guy," he suggested she open up a hot dog stand. "But," she said, "I like coffee."

A woman of definite tastes and liking the idea of pleasing people's palates, she opened up the Coffee Cantina. A different flavor is featured each day, and her personal favorites among the several dozen she carries, are the dark roasts: Sumatra, Mexican, and Kenyan. Coffee's not the only thing she loves. There's music, too.

Every Thursday evening, the Coffee Cantina hosts a musical soiree which includes the celtic music group, Rose of Tejon, and their children whose group is called "Rosebuds." The Music Man, Ron Edsall, comes in to play the banjo and sometimes his wife, Barbara, joins in by dancing.

"Different people show up," Kate says tossing back her long hair, "We never know who'll be playing on a given Thursday night." Occasionally Bill Saberhagen and Paul Larson drop in and play, or Jeff Lee, who trains for Steve Martin's Working Wildlife in Lockwood Valley, will bring his guitar and amp.

"Thursday nights at the Cantina are a real Jam Session," says Kate Donahue, "with piano, banjo, fiddles and like that"

Currently single, she lives near the Cantina. "It's very nice having a strong guy living next door," she says, referring to Daniel (23), one of her two sons. "Daniel," she announces proudly, "can do anything." And music and coffee are still not all of Kate's passions.

Across the street, she teaches clay sculpture to kids, and is moving beyond clay to glass. "Glass," she advises, "is my passion." Samples of her glass sculpting handiwork decorate the Cantina, as do the paintings of one of Kate's talented sisters..

Based on a 16th Century Italian tradition of street painting, Kate founded the Frazier Park Painting Festival, featuring chalk art. This October 2nd, from 8 am to 3 pm, the fourth annual Festival will be held in the Cantina parking lot (closed for the event). Judging begins at 3 pm. Entertainment will include muscians and other local talent, a spaghetti sauce contest and that wonderful coffee. For particulars, call 245-3166.

Kate has many loves, including animals. Just ask her cat, "Scairdy Cat," her dogs, "Chopper" and his mother, "Missy" (father unknown) or the only one of her "bunch of tropical fish" with a name: Oscar.

At home, Kate might be found reading one of her spiritual books or cooking, favoring meals like steamed vegetables and barbecue.

Although she originally turned down the idea of a hot dog stand, she pays tribute to her friend, the late Mr. Lytton, with a daily special called Harvey's Hot Dogs.

They say if you hang out in Rome, Italy long enough, everybody you ever knew will sooner or later pass by. The same thing could happen at the Coffee Cantina.

Reprinted by permisson of Maggie Van Ostrand

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