Joe Ruth talks with early morning customers

Joe Ruth talks with early morning customers


JOE RUTH, AKA Joe the Barista, has created a following since moving to Port Townsend eight years ago.

He has brewed espresso at Bread and Roses, served French roast at the 1012 Coffee Bar uptown and whipped up cappuccino at the UnderTown.

Now, Joe and spouse Caroline Ruth have their own coffee shop, where Joe can indulge in his two passions: serving a great cup of coffee and juggling.

“One of the highlights of the space is the high ceiling,” Caroline said. “It was a major attraction.”

The coffee shop, Velocity, debuted June 25 in the Chandlery Building of the Northwest Maritime Center and is open seven days a week.

Early morning rowers

The doors, off the waterfront plaza in back, open at 6:30 a.m. every day except Sundays to accommodate early morning rowers.

Joe is there by 6 a.m. to make coffee and do his warm-up routine, which gets his brain and his eye-hand coordination in gear.

“I juggle,” he said. “Or try to.”

The Ruths chose the name Velocity because it invoked the idea of getting up to speed in the morning by having a cup of coffee while looking out over the water.

The windows over the seating counter slide completely open to create a sidewalk-cafe ambiance.

The Ruths are planning to add outside seating on the plaza, something they put into the lease, and to add sandwiches to the menu.

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Caroline, who studied economics and accounting at the University of Michigan, drew up the business plan.

“It’s nice to put those skills to use,” she said.

When the Northwest Maritime Center opened four years ago, the coffee shop space was leased to the owners of Aldrich’s Grocery, then run by the center itself with Emily Martens as manager, Caroline said.

When Martens decided to pursue another career, Jake Beattie, center director, thought of Joe and called to ask whether he was interested in becoming manager.

Joe declined the job, but a few weeks later, the couple realized they were interested in leasing the space and called back.

‘Finally ready’

“I’m finally ready to own my own place,” Joe said. “I wasn’t ready three years ago.”

Originally from Woodland Park, Colo., Joe developed a passion for coffee in Seattle, where he became a barista.

Then, wanting to live in a smaller town, he followed brewer Skip Madsen to Port Townsend, where Madsen was starting a brew pub.

Joe and Caroline met when they were both working at Bread and Roses, then owned by Frank d’Amore and Linda Yakush.

They married two years ago in Chetzemoka Park.

“When we were dating, and Joe found out I could juggle, it sealed the deal,” Caroline said.

“That and the way you look behind an espresso machine,” Joe added from the counter, where he tends to be in constant motion.

Coffee lovers found their way to Velocity through word of mouth and posts on Facebook pages, Caroline said.

Last Saturday, Daniel Packard, a retired art professor, was one of the first people through the door.

Packard, who grew up on Plymouth Bay near Duxbury, Mass., said he has been frequenting coffeehouses since he was a boy and sat and listened to the fishermen and lobstermen talking.

He’s known Joe since the barista came to Port Townsend eight years ago and made him a cup of coffee.

“I’ve always seemed to wind up at a place he is working,” said Packard, noting that he also is a regular at the UnderTown Cafe and Wine Bar in the basement of the Baker Block building.

Java and Joe fans

Other Joe fans: a group of retired professors from Chico, Calif., whose coffee klatch meets at Aldrich’s on weekdays and at Velocity on weekends.

They include Jim Myers, a retired archaeology professor at California State, who was part of the Beat coffeehouse scene at Berkeley when he was a grad student. Now, he and other professors meet to talk over the old days and discuss current affairs.

“Every day, we solve the world’s problems over coffee,” Myers said. “It’s a good way to start the day.”

Then there are the rowers who store their sculls in the building behind the Chandlery.

The Tough as Nails crew goes out on the water at 6 a.m., Caroline said, so they are usually the first ones in.

Another group goes out at 8 a.m., with waves of rowers after that.

Joe also has cultivated coffee customers among the shipwrights who work in the boat shop next door.

“He brings it over to the shop,” said Don Mathrole, a boatshop volunteer and Chico coffee klatch member.

“Last Friday, we were eating lunch outside, and he brought out a coffee sampler for everybody at no charge.”

Last Saturday morning, after serving the first wave of customers and taking delivery of pastries from Ken Porter of Pane d’Amore Bakery, Joe made Ethiopian coffee in a French press and carefully poured it into small white cups, then presented one to each customer as a perk.

Later, Caroline and baby Agnes, their daughter, came in.

Agnes, who is 11 months old, sometimes sits with customers she knows, Caroline said, or plays with the juggling balls from the bottom shelf of the counter. Other times, Agnes job-shadows her mother from a backpack baby carrier.

“We like to say she’s interning,” Caroline said, “but she sleeps on the job.”

They have hired an employee, Sarah Felder, first mate of the schooner Adventuress.

Morning people

But both Caroline and Joe are morning people, so they don’t mind the early hours, Caroline said.

Helping people wake up and be aware of the beauty of the moment is his motivation, Joe said.

Having his own coffee shop with a view — and a high ceiling — is the perfect setting.

“I feel like I’ve moved up in the world,” he said.

Velocity is open seven days a week at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St., Port Townsend, overlooking the Point Hudson marina.

Hours are Mondays through Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or email

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