Little King Coffee debuts in Buellton

Courtesy photo by Elisenda Farison
MUG SHOT: Little King Coffee opened its doors earlier this spring. The new Buellton venue serves a variety of hot and iced coffees and teas, alongside a menu of baked goods and recently added breakfast sandwiches.

With their newborn nestled in a stroller, a Buellton couple was walking along Valley Station Drive when an epiphany struck in late 2023.

“[We] saw a really big need—especially on our side of the freeway—for a community space for people to go be in and hang out at,” explained Grace Gates. “I was just so aware of this kind of gaping hole in the community … especially from the perspective of a mom.”

Gates and her husband, Ryan Dobosh, have both worked in the hospitality industry in various capacities for years and always hoped to start a business of their own someday. Earlier this spring, the couple opened Little King Coffee at 290 Valley Station Drive, suite 101, less than a year after their son, Roger, was born.

“It was a concept that we were talking about for years and years,” said Gates, who explained the origin of the coffee shop’s title they chose—and its double meaning.

click to enlarge Little King Coffee debuts in Buellton
Courtesy photo by Elisenda Farison
THE ROYAL WE: Husband-and-wife duo Ryan Dobosh (left) and Grace Gates (center) are the owners of Little King Coffee. Here they are pictured with their son and “little king,” Roger (right).

In Gaelic, the name Ryan means “little king,” which is why the shop was initially named after Dobosh. 

“Then we had Roger, and we’re like, ‘Oh, he is the little king,’” Gates said of her son. “He’s definitely our little king.”

With whole-bean coffee sourced from Ventura-based supplier Coastal Coffee Collective, Little King Coffee serves drip coffee and espresso drinks, including lattes, Americanos, macchiatos, and more. Cappuccinos and mochas are the couple’s personal favorites at the shop.

“I love a cappuccino—always have,” Gates said. “Ryan loves the mocha. He’s very specific about the chocolate and the way his mocha is.”

Gates and Dobosh quickly bonded over their mutual love of coffee and coffee shops when they started dating. 

“We really did fall in love over coffee,” Gates said. “He’s Seattle born, so he’s from the coffee culture. It’s always been a big part of his life and his day.

click to enlarge Little King Coffee debuts in Buellton
Courtesy photo by Elisenda Farison
GIVE ME A SIGN: Little King Coffee co-owners Grace Gates and Ryan Dobosh are longtime hospitality professionals and frequent coffee shop crawlers. When they came across an available space in Buellton, they jumped at the chance to open a coffee shop of their own.

“My dad was amazing at making coffee. He always had a French press going,” added Gates, born and raised in Los Angeles. “I just always loved the tradition of coffee, and taking a moment to start your day and spend time with your family or with a specific person over coffee.”

Little King Coffee also has chai, matcha, and other teas through a partnership with Long Beach-based wholesaler Offshore. The shop serves food items as well, thanks to similar collaborations with local businesses.

Wayward Baking in Los Osos currently supplies the shop with scones, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods, and the last week of April marks the debut of a new breakfast sandwich on Little King Coffee’s menu. 

“We’re basically doing a ‘valley’ breakfast sandwich,” explained Gates, who said the sandwich’s components include bread from Lindsay’s Little Bakery in the Santa Ynez Valley, eggs from Motley Crew Ranch in Lompoc, and bacon from High on the Hog in Buellton.

While bringing a new outlet for sweet and savory offerings to Buellton, one of Gates and Dobosh’s goals behind Little King Coffee was simply to create a casual, cozy meeting space.

click to enlarge Little King Coffee debuts in Buellton
Courtesy photo by Elisenda Farison
ORDER UP: Little King Coffee has a warm, inviting atmosphere that aligns with its founders’ goal of opening a casual coffee shop where community members would feel comfortable meeting for any number of reasons.

“What we’re trying to do here, over everything, is make a space for the community. We’re already seeing it now—people meeting their partners for dates after they drop their kids off at school; people meeting before they go to work,” Gates said. “Coffee is such a great vehicle for those little moments in between your life.”

Despite their mutual affinity for coffee, Gates and Dobosh first bonded over it simply because their schedules demanded morning and day meetups as opposed to evening dates.

“We dated during the day. … It was mostly over coffee instead of over drinks,” said Gates, who first met Dobosh while they both worked the same dinner shift at a restaurant in Austin, Texas.

“We loved going to coffee shops. … We spent time in lots of different shops, hanging out,” said Gates, who clarified that the coffee shop crawling didn’t stop when the couple moved to the Central Coast. “You can ask all the other coffee shops in the Santa Ynez Valley, we still did that. Every day, we tried to go have coffee somewhere and just have a moment for the two of us.” 

“We’re big fans of all the coffee shops in the area,” Gates added, “and we’re just so glad to bring something to Buellton.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood sure could use a vanilla latte right about now. Send comments to [email protected].

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