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The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

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A History of the Mill Valley Coffee Shop

Graphic by Sam Ismalier

In the shadows of all the major coffee shop corporations in Mill Valley lies a family-owned cafe on the corner of Miller and Locust Avenue. From an influx of new families moving to Marin County, to the major flood of 1982, 4 Locust Ave. has seen it all when it comes to the history of Mill Valley. 

The shop’s location runs deep with history and was first opened in 1930 with the original name of the cafe being Locust Coffee Shop. Currently, the shop is owned and run by Phil Adams and Lorraine Adams, and has been under their ownership for the past 38 years. After moving from Guinea to the Bay Area in the late 1960s, Phil Adams started his journey in the food business in a hamburger restaurant chain. 

“I started off as a dishwasher at Zims in 1970 and became a graveyard cook, then a breakfast cook, which turned into assistant manager, then I became manager and eventually general manager,” Phil Adams said. 

After working at Zims for a total of 16 years, Phil Adams decided to leave and buy what is now known as Mill Valley Coffee Shop in 1986. 

This classic diner has more to offer than just history. The coffee shop has an extensive menu of various breakfast and lunch items, which are personally made by Adams. Aspects like the countertop seating and the old black-and-white photos of Mill Valley hanging on the wall truly make you feel like an authentic American diner. 

“Mill Valley Coffee Shop is a consistent go-to spot of mine when I am feeling like an authentic breakfast experience,” Tamalpais High School senior Quin Concannon said.  

Apart from its authenticity, the collection of corporate-run dynasties in Marin shows the longevity and persistence of the Adams partners. With Phil as the cook, Lorraine as both the barista and waitress, the two of them have been able to maintain business even through the economic challenges of having a small business in Mill Valley. As most businesses in Mill Valley are quick to come and go, Mill Valley Coffee Shop has stuck around and become a staple for many Mill Valley locals.

“From being here for so long, many of the locals who come in know us by name and when they come in I know exactly what they are going to order and they can just say, ‘Phil, the usual,’” Phil Adams said. “These relationships mean a lot to me and what I believe sets us [Mill Valley Coffee Shop] apart from all the other coffee shops.”

While many breakfast establishments have turned to microwavable breakfasts, Mill Valley Coffee Shop has stayed true to the idea of quality over everything. The loyalty that is shown by the Mill Valley locals is unlike any other chain corporation. 

“I am 75 years old and have been all around the world and yet Mill Valley Coffee Shop is still my favorite breakfast joint to go to,” said Samuel Freddrick. “I think the service along with the friendliness Phil and Lorraine [Adams] show is what makes me keep coming back.”

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