You’ve heard it before: “Nice guys finish last.” That’s not the case at The Jitter House in Hoquiam. Sam and Cristina Nazario, proprietors of The Jitter House coffee shop, are re-writing the script. They’re proving, “nice guys finish first” one cup, customer and conversation at a time.
The Jitter House is known for its warm hospitality and flavorful coffees. But it’s about far more than a fancy cuppa Joe. Latin nuances, Christian ministry and tangible support for law enforcement and military service are all on the menu.
Located on Simpson Avenue in the La Vogue building, the snug, cozy coffee house is a place to call home. Expect a warm greeting and the rich aroma of Cristina’s home-baked pastries, soups or sandwiches as you enter. Music from contemporary Christian artists like Kari Jobe, Phil Wickham or Chris Tomlin play softly in the background. A chess board perches atop one table. The ambience includes several personal touches, including an entire wall dedicated to the U.S. Armed Services which has special meaning for the Nazarios.
Flags for each branch of service adorn the wall as do copies of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. The U.S. flag folded above the USMC emblem draped the casket of Cristina’s father, a Washington State Trooper and a U.S. Marine who passed away five years ago.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for law enforcement because of my dad,” Cristina says softly. “I know what they go through. Any time law enforcement has a need, I feel like it’s my duty to serve, like to my dad.”
The Nazarios demonstrated this recently, preparing and donating sandwiches, coffee, chips and fruit for Hoquiam police officers involved in a multi-hour stand-off.
Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers noted the Nazario’s generosity in a letter dated June 1, 2016. “Your thoughtfulness came at a perfect time as it allowed the officers to remain longer and stay alert at the scene,” wrote Chief Myers. “I want to thank you for your concern and tell you how much we appreciate what you did for us that day.”
The Jitter House sprang into existence one fall when it “fell in our laps. We were actually not looking for it,” says Christina.
“I got a call from the old owner when it became available. We talked about it and then snapped it up,” continues Sam. “We love people, we love coffee and we love this community.”
As a former barista, Sam knows there is a science to the perfect cup. “It’s not just throwing it in the pot and pouring. In Italy, when you go to a coffee house, it’s either latte or a cappuccino. No flavors. Here, we add flavors so you might taste the latte first, then the coffee or vice-versa. It’s the same ingredients, but two different tastes depending on the pour.”
Taste rules the roaster at The Jitter House. “Being new to the coffee business, I wanted to research and make sure we serve a really great cup of coffee. So I joined a coffee forum and learned about local roasters,” Christina says.
As a result, the Nazarios selected Batdorf & Bronson of Olympia. “We use them as our primary roaster and get their beans the day after they’re roasted,” Sam says. “You get a bag and open it and it smells so good, you want to eat it!”
Cristina’s culinary creations are another star of The Jitter House. Her sour cream cinnamon coffee cake, oatmeal date bars and other baked goods are patron favorites. “She brings the love of family to the shop and shares it here. It gives it a warm atmosphere. It’s kind of like serving family,” says Sam.
Regulars agree. “They serve the best coffee I’ve ever had, hands down,” says Deena Otterstetter. “I’ve been to Sicily and had coffee there. This is even better!”
For the Nazarios, “even better” goes beyond serving coffee, as John Ogren and Tim Boling attest. When asked why they come in every day, both gentlemen pointed at Sam and said, “Because of him.”
“Sam is the kind of guy who, when people come in, he knows who they are, their name, where they’re from and who their family is,” explains Tim. “He doesn’t forget.”
John adds, “Sam’s a great guy. And they’re both so gracious and kind to everyone. This has kinda become our home away from home.”
Christina’s recipes and culinary creations include Italian and Caribbean influence including Cristina’s Sopa de Salchicho (salami soup). “When I was a little kid, that was my favorite soup,” recalls Sam. “It’s Puerto Rican and my wife started creating it until she made it better than my mom.” Sam’s parents immigrated from Puerto Rico in 1957 whilc Christina’s heritage includes Spanish, Italian and Scandinavian roots.
Sam’s coffee also reflects his heritage, like Café con Azuquitta (coffee with my beloved sugars). “It’s more Cuban/Puerto Rican style,” he says.
Sam and Cristina met in church in Bellevue in 1993 where Sam served as a Spanish interpreter. They were married in 1994 and moved to Grays Harbor in June 2011. “We came here for ministry,” explains Sam. After helping out at World of Praise Church in Hoquiam for 20+ years, the Nazarios moved to Grays Harbor where Sam now serves as Spanish Pastor at World of Praise. He says Grays Harbor is “like our second home.”
“The best part about running a coffee house is building community and relationships. It’s like having people in your home,” says Sam.
Cristina observes, “What’s really neat is when people come in, they think they know what they want. And Sam says, ‘Let me make you something I think you will like,’ and they love it! It’s like art.”
Community, coffee and kindness. That’s what The Jitter House is all about, proving that “nice guys” can indeed finish first.