Keeping Chico caffeinated

Bobbi Tryon

Photo by Pam Figge

Some people may recognize Bobbi Tryon as the Here Today “coffee cart lady” or identify her as a sage medical adviser (she was a registered nurse for 30-plus years and volunteers at the Shalom Free Clinic). Those attuned to local radio know Tryon served on the KZFR community radio station’s program council, bringing Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! to Chico. Tryon wears many hats with style and commitment, and she has a passion for dripping coffee. Originally from New England, Tryon moved to San Francisco in 1967. It was a likely scenario for a free-thinking young person, who says she moved West because “all the hippies were out there.” In 1972, the “back to the land” movement brought her to Shasta County, where she purchased 10 acres for “$75 down and $75 a month.” She moved to Chico in 1988. Tryon and her husband, Bob Speer (not the former editor of CN&R), have an extended family of three children and five grandkids.

Over the 17 years you have been dripping coffee and selling cookies at the Saturday farmers’ market, what changes have you seen?

I see most changes in my customers. I’ve seen bellies grow, babies appear. I’m someone those babies get to know. They grow up and still come around for a hug. As I’ve gotten older, I can gauge my age by how I feel at the end of a Saturday.

Are there days you just want to sleep in on a Saturday morning?

We get there around 7 a.m. We were on the sidewalk outside the market for 14 years partly because we could come later. Not smart for a coffee cart. Sleeping in on Saturday morning is an ongoing conversation with my husband!

Your cart is made of wood and designed for bicycle transport and dripping coffee. Where did you get such a unique cart?

My incredible husband can make anything out of wood with beauty and functionality. It was a love affair to design it.

What is the secret to making a great cup of coffee?

The blend, the grind and the amount of coffee. I individually drip each cup either “strong” or “stronger.” Using a hefty scoop might be the most important step.

What’s kept you working the cart these past 17 years?

It makes me feel good. I like multitasking and love seeing the same people become friends if only for that sweet connection we have on Saturday morning.

Ever had to refuse service to a disagreeable person?

Nope. Once a guy wouldn’t buy a cup because I had a Malcolm X postcard up to identify the drip station. People love to guess the celebrities—it’s educational. Nine-year-olds should know who Bob Dylan, Harry Houdini and Lucy are, right?

Have you ever thought about opening a brick-and-mortar shop?

No. I don’t want to work that much. When you have a shop, you have to be there. I’m retired except on Saturday mornings!