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article imageItalian Motor Scooters and Espresso make a successful combination Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 6, 2012 in Lifestyle
Sonoma - As the economy was shifting in 2008, Nick and Carissa Grimm opened Sorento Imports specializing in Italian motor scooters for sale and rent.
"We did really well in the first year because many people wanted to save money on gasoline," said Nick Grimm. And what helped spur them on according to Grimm was the recession as he noted "it takes only a little over one gallon to fill the tank of a motor scooter and these scooters, I sell here they can go up to 70 MPH and get 100 miles per gallon," he said. The venture to open a motor scooter shop was a united family effort with the help of his father.
Located on the corner of West Napa Street Sorento Imports is not hard to miss. Scooters fill the lot which also has a repair shop and a full-service espresso bar. When he got notified that all scooter rental drivers must have an M-1 motorcycle endorsement on a license that took the breeze out of his scooter rental business.
"I still offer rentals, but I don't advertise that because too often people who say they want to rent a scooter, don't know they must have a motorcycle permit with their license and not just a driver's license alone to operate a motor scooter," said Grimm. Despite the obstacle to their newly established business, both he and wife Carissa were not about to give up.
"I used to be a 'barista' and both Carissa and I thought it would be a good idea to offer coffee as a way to keep business going," said Grimm. It turns out they made the right choice, the stream of customers is steady. "Italian motor scooters and espresso; the combination works well together," he said.
Grimm pointed to the espresso bar and cart he built on a Lambretta 1966 model. On closer inspection this reporter noticed that underneath all the equipment and accessories for serving coffee, espresso was a scooter. In taking the time to convert one scooter into an espresso bar, Grimm soon discovered yet another career opportunity. "I enjoy turning scooters into food carts," he said. Grimm so far has custom made about a dozen. "Each one is custom made and unique," he said.
Starting at about $18,000, Grimm said that he can make very a basic to more elaborately designed food cart, some with an additional side car. "No mass production, each one is made to order," said Grimm. He has made specialized food carts out of motor scooters for customers as far away as Texas.
Grimm hopes that as the recent popularity of food cart vending at events, fairs and farmers markets increases, he will get more orders. Meanwhile, his espresso bar is always busy. "We offer 30 different types of hot and cold beverages and we do our espresso drinks in the traditional Italian style," he said.
Sorento Imports has gotten lots of local coverage since it opened four years ago. Often referred to as the "scooter cafe" locals stream in. "85 percent of our customers are regulars; we practically know the entire town by now," said Lauren Henriksen. She and fellow server Bri Miller also make deliveries to customers upon request. "I like everything about this place; working here is so much fun, especially making deliveries on a scooter" said Miller.
Both she and Henriksen noted that sometimes the flow of business varies but customers make a point of stopping by rain or shine. "When it rains, we tough it out," said Henriksen. "Believe it or not, we get more customers on rainy days, she said because people like to stay in the car to get their coffee."
No sooner had she said that when a customer drove up and asked for a cafe latte. Grimm recommended the pumpkin latte to this reporter. "It is like liquid pumpkin pie," he said, this reporter would agree. A nice seasonal treat! Offering savory and sweet food items from seven different bakeries in Sonoma County, patrons also can sit at one of the tables near the repair shop to enjoy a bite to eat and read the newspaper or their mobile phone/electronic notepad device.
Grimm, Carissa and staff are always happy to chat while serving up some of the best coffee and pastries in town. Their cafe now offers a "breakfast burrito" and new items appear frequently. With the holiday season approaching, Grimm has ideas, I hope to have Christmas trees here for sale this year." "Turn this corner into a little holiday tree farm, where customers can get a hot beverage and pick out a tree for the holidays," he said. Of course all this is pending upon permits granted from City Hall. Yet, Grimm is confident he will be able to do it, if not, with his ingenuity, Grimm will think of something.
Located at 455 West Napa Street the "Scooter Cafe" at Sorento Imports is open six days a week from 5 AM to 5 PM. Call (707) 938-0800 for details.
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