Photography by Kathy Tran

White Rock Coffee takes coffee seriously. After opening in 2005, it has expanded to own a commercial bakery, roaster, warehouse and a handful of locations. Owners even bought the Jack in the Box next door to create a lab for employee training and public coffee classes. But it seems like neighbors take it even more seriously. When a Starbucks opened next door, neighbors fumed. They frequently go online to defend White Rock Coffee. Why are neighbors fiercely loyal?


Sometimes coffee shop food purchases are a last-minute grab for someone who forgot to pack a lunch. That’s not the case with White Rock Coffee. “They have good food choices in a pinch,” customer Jennifer Cluney says. “I can zip through the drive-thru and pick up a breakfast, snack or lunch.” All pastries are cooked from scratch in the White Rock Coffee bakery. “We have monthly meetings with our bake shop manager, and we come together with recipes,” owner Nancy Baker says. The hometown cooking even comes down to the chicken salad recipe, which is from Baker’s mother. “We always wanted to be very coffee centric, so our food is very intentional on how it pairs,” she says.


Walking into White Rock Coffee can feel like a sitcom episode in which the barista knows your name and order. “Not only the best coffee, but a very special place,” customer Jutta Preston says. “Great personnel, super customer service.” Employees are screened for their ability to form relationships. “I’m pretty sure my family has gotten White Rock Coffee at least five times a week since the COVID-19 shelter-in-place [order] in March,” customer Michelle Ball says. “Above all, it’s the customer service that keeps me loyal. At every location, the people serving me have always been kind, cheerful and helpful.”


White Rock Coffee is as local as can be. “They’re a local small business, and their coffee is far superior to mermaid swill,” customer Kris Moore says. Baker and her husband, Robert, support local organizations like White Rock Center of Hope. “They support us, and we want to support our neighborhood,” Baker says.


From the White Rocker, Adam Bomb and Cinderella, White Rock Coffee customers praise the beverages. “We usually roast, package and deliver to our locations all on the same day,” Baker says. “We source coffee from probably every coffee-growing region on the planet.” The variety of blends comes from about 34 different regions. White Rock Coffee’s tasting team meets once a week and checks for quality. The team focuses on isolating naturally occurring flavors to create a wide selection of blends. Customers can enjoy a Costa Rica honey blend, which has hints of berries, brown sugar and plums. Or they can enjoy the fan-favorite house blend with caramel, baking chocolate and juicy flavors. “We like to have a variety that would please a lot of different people and a lot of different palates,” Baker says.


Over 15 years, Baker says she’s seen her fair share of proposals at White Rock Coffee. They’ve had nine baristas meet and marry. A few customers were even invited to wedding festivities. “It’s my youngest daughter’s favorite place,” customer Lucinda Cummins says. “It’s the first place she goes to when she comes home from college.” White Rock Coffee serves as a home away from home for a lot of people — whether they come to study privately, host work meetings or attend a first date. “It’s so cliché to say, ‘It’s like family,’ but no, it really is,” Baker says.