Breaking New Ground
story: Billy Brown photo: Brent Van Auken
LISA LANGSTON'S FRESH PERSPECTIVE
Upon opening the door at Breaking New Grounds on Yuba Street in Redding, customers find themselves lured inside by the scent of espresso and jazz music. Owner Lisa Langston welcomes everyone who wanders in, taking orders and giving recommendations with the wink and smile of a lifelong acquaintance. This relaxing atmosphere and friendly service is remarkable, considering the bumpy road Langston took to get there.
Langston, 39, got her first taste of owning and operating a coffee business in 2000 with Lisa’s Bagels and Brew, a drive-through coffee shop in Corning that she literally built from the ground up. “I was working at Sierra Pacific, and I wanted to do something different,” she says. “I loved mochas so much that I decided to build a drive-through.”
She bought a pre-made shed, and got to work . “It was just a shell with a porch on it, then I went to Home Depot and bought countertops, siding, insulation and flooring. A contractor friend of ours plumbed it and put the electricity in it. We picked it up with a forklift, plopped it down on a corner on Solano Street and I ran it for five years.” Langston got a deal on rent from the lot’s owner, and eventually sold the drive-through business.
Langston then ran Shasta Espresso and Deli in the Shasta County Courthouse for a year before leaving the coffee business to work for Economic Development in Tehama County. She was there for three years before they closed their doors, leaving Langston looking for work. This setback was the latest in a series that had befallen the Langston family. “About a year and a half after my husband Neil and I got married, he lost his job. The following January, two of our dogs were hit by a train on the back of our property.”
A few months later, Langston’s 18-year-old daughter Emily was in a severe car wreck. “She was run off of the freeway by three big rigs,” she says. Fortunately, Emily was shaken up, but only suffered minor cuts and bruises. “And the following May I was told that I was losing my job at Economic Development.”
After a few months of job hunting, she decided to return to the coffee business. “I told my husband, ‘I want to pour coffee again,’” she says. “And bam - within a few weeks, he found this place on Craigslist.” Known as Village Grind at the time, Langston paid a visit. It had a drastically different atmosphere:
“No music, really bright lighting, they had grills,” she says. The Langstons bought the business and set about changing its focus to a more relaxed, low-key coffeehouse, and opened in November 2009. The choice to bring back the establishment’s original name, “Breaking New Grounds,” means more to the Langstons than marketing strategy. “The reason that I asked permission from the original owner to bring the original name back was because this, in a sense, was breaking new grounds for my family, getting away from all the things that had happened and moving on to a new life. And now, here we are.”
This optimism is apparent as you see her interact with customers. “It’s the people that come in here, that’s what gets me going every day,” she says. Interacting with people and getting to share her enthusiasm for life with the people that make their way in and out of her coffee shop every day seems to give her a jolt similar to the espresso that she serves.
Watching her work alongside her daughter, serving coffee, laughing and making customers feel at home, it’s hard to imagine Langston doing anything else.