Laporte baker Caitlin Philp serves up scrumptious fare, along with a healthy side of community.
IF YOU STOP at Me Oh My Coffee and Pie in Laporte at lunchtime to grab a quick sandwich, you may get a little caught up. First, there’s the menu. Among the list of myriad from-scratch offerings, there’s a La Ham sandwich, piled with meat and smoked provolone, topped with lettuce and a dollop of mustard. Then there’s the soup of the day, a hearty meatball. And it’s impossible to ignore the lamb pot pie and the Mediterranean croissant, and several breakfast items which are served all day, including biscuits and gravy, and quiche. But this is only the beginning. There’s also a case of beautifully displayed desserts, everything from lemon bars to cinnamon rolls to a rich Noosa coffee cake. And pie: choices like pumpkin, apple and pecan.
“I learned that people want a place to go where they can see their friends, make new acquaintances, and feel a part of something.”
Once your order is placed, there’s no reason to pull out your phone to cure boredom. Adjacent to the café is a space selling items created by local makers: soaps and lotion bars and greeting cards. There are vegetables harvested from nearby farms. A cooler with fresh flowers. And then, you may suddenly spot an acquaintance sipping coffee at a table in the corner, or your neighbor and his toddler drawing on the chalkboard in the family area. And wait, is that a local knitting club meeting at the big table? Are the people near the knitters eating lunch and tying flies? Before you know it, you’re late for whatever’s next in your life, provided you have to be somewhere. Where was that, anyway?
According to owner Caitlin Philp, this is precisely the point. Community, by way of “food the way Grandma made it,” is what she’s been cultivating since 2012, when she went out on a limb and opened Me Oh My, starting out in a cramped vacant gas station across from Cache La Poudre Elementary School. She’s always loved baking the good old-fashioned way, using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients whenever possible, and she credits her mentors at locales like Gib’s Bagels and the former Déjà Vu Coffeehouse, for helping her see that food fosters human connection. “I learned that people want a place to go where they can see their friends, make new acquaintances, and feel a part of something,” she says. “I like to see people hanging out and getting to know each other.”
But the truth is, Me Oh My has not always been easy-peasy sugar and spice, overflowing with patrons. Philp moved into her current rented location, a brand new 3,000-square-foot building on the corner of Overland Trail and West County Rd 54G, in July, but when she first opened in the gas station, customers only trickled in. “I was barely paying the bills, my rent check was bouncing, and I could not pay myself anything,” she says. Perhaps the hardest bite to swallow is that she’d been inches from a graduate degree in education, but then the opportunity arose to open the café, so she walked away from her degree in order to do it.
And then, she chose to build a business in tiny Laporte. Many people advised her to go to South Fort Collins, due to the burgeoning growth in that area. But her heart was on the north side of town; she’d grown up there and attended Poudre High School. And although she admits that from a business point of view maybe Laporte wasn’t the best idea, she says, “I was fixed on the idea of building a community and darn it, that was going to work!”
And it did. Business increased over time. Customers continued to trickle in, some by bicycle from the nearby Poudre Trail, others driving down from their homes in Rist Canyon. Teachers jogged across the street to grab a snack, parents and babies strolled over from the neighborhood, and some people even came from South Fort Collins, lured by word-of-mouth recommendations. Things began to really pick up. People told others. And they returned not just for the food, but for the feeling.
Now, with space to spread out, Philp is embracing the joys of operating in the new location, which has truly allowed her to expand her horizons. She’s been able to get even more creative with her menu, adding items like a Chinese salad, inspired by the time she spent in the Peace Corps in Northwest China. She also now has an outdoor patio for socializing (and summertime yoga?), and she’s adding beer, wine and choice cocktails to the repertoire. In the future, she has high hopes to add a mercantile to the retail space, and, of course, ideas from the community are always welcome. Because ultimately, her goal remains simple: “Good food, good drinks and people enjoying them together.”