For a vendor who has been at the Davis Farmers Market for more than 20 years, serving a consistently long line of loyal (and addicted) customers every Saturday morning is about more than just coffee.
Mark Sedgley, founder and owner of Espresso Road, considers himself a housewife. He lives in West Davis with his wife and two kids, and said he has always wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. But he keeps his off-time productive as the man behind the popular coffee cart in Central Park and a friend, neighbor and uncle to those that make up the Davis Farmers Market community.
“I’m the coffee guy. It’s like being out there in the community without being the mayor,” Sedgley said. “It’s an absolute fun, and it preserves a happiness.”
The Espresso Road coffee cart has a full menu of espresso drinks, brewed coffee and tea, all available hot or iced and mostly under $4.
“A good cup of coffee won’t taste sour, make you jittery, or be hard on your stomach,” Sedgley said. “There’s a culinary value in the art of making coffee. I won’t pull a bad shot of espresso.”
Management had to move Espresso Road because the line of devoted coffee drinkers was so long, it blocked the flow of traffic.
Along with the bevy of coffee beverages available, Espresso Road also serves treats for kids. Hot chocolate with Ghiradelli syrup, steamed milk and marshmallows is served every morning, a taste likened to a See’s candy bar that has rubbed off on Sedgley’s 15-year-old son, Jake Sedgley.
“Never make chocolate milk with water, only milk,” Jake Sedgley said.
Mark Sedgley serves only what he considers the best, and is so in tune with quality control that he can tell when the weather is looking “muggy around the equator” just from the taste of the coffee beans.
“Once a year or so, the quality changes and I’ll have to cut in something a little lighter, because it’s so overcaffeinated I call it ‘angry coffee,’” he said.
Mark Sedgley uses three-gallon coffee filters, bundled up around the grinds to form “coffee balls,” to steep each batch of coffee-like tea. The beans are 100 percent Arabica, and come from Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and a private estate. They are blended together and roasted as one.
“Some will roast the raw beans separately and then mix them together,” Mark Sedgley said. “But then there’s an unequal balance. Roasting together is the only way to get your flavors consistent.”
Mark Sedgley acknowledged that there was something to be said for keeping the business small to ensure such consistency.
“I don’t raise my prices, I’ll keep my prices consistent because I’d rather have a lot of customers than a lot of money in life,” he said. “What keeps me here is the personality of it. The welcomeness, the part of Davis that rocks.”
Mark Sedgley started in 1987 with a stand at a flea market in Sausalito, selling Nathan’s New York hot dogs on San Francisco sourdough.
“A friend suggested one day that I put an espresso machine on my hotdog cart. Suddenly, there was a line going bonkers,” he said.
Afterwards, he used his own exemplary skills as a carpenter to create the station that he still uses today.
“I used to work as a woodsmith, making furniture,” Sedgley said. “So that’s what I made, I made a piece of furniture, my own art. And that’s my cart. It’s 5 foot 9, wingtip to wingtip, so I can work within the range of my own arm’s length.”
Sedgley currently only employs one other person to help him on Saturdays, a Davis local and family friend named Eric Ross who has been working with Sedgley for two years. Ross agreed that there is a personal quality to Espresso Road coffee.
“Mark knows his machine inside and out,” Ross said. “It wasn’t functioning when he bought it, but he fixed it up and now he knows what every part is doing when it does and why.”
Sedgley only drinks his own coffee, and said he can never go anywhere without it. There are times he will pull over at rest stops, set up a camp stove and cook … coffee.
“He actually does that,” said Jake Sedgley, attesting to his father’s ownership of several French presses.
So Mark Sedgley isn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t want to be rich, I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want to have 30 shops. I want to be 90 and walking at the Farmers Market. I work for the hugs. You can’t put this experience on a dollar bill.”
Davis Farmers Market
Ross said that what he appreciates about the Davis Farmers Market is the energy.
“There’s always something happening. I love the activity, the hustle and bustle, everything,” he said. “Vending at fairs and festivals like this is something I’d like to stick with.”
Contributing, of course, to the personality of the market are the students, who, as Sedgley said, have their own fanaticisms.
“My coffee is synonymous with Saturday morning,” he said. “So when students come, I’ll pick on them because they’re not awake. Then they’re excited to stick around for four years because they’re disappointed by other peoples’ coffee.”
Mark Sedgley, who has become a constant in the familial Farmers Market community, has formed meaningful relationships with the market’s customers and vendors over the decades.
“I get to watch everybody’s kids grow up,” he said. “It’s upsetting, sometimes you lose friends and they move on, but sometimes they come back.”
As he noted, Davis is a come-and-go town, and standing by as friends grow only to watch them leave is difficult for him. One of the teas that Sedgley serves is named in honor of a friend, who recently passed, named Christine Galloway. Sedgley said he and his family saw her raise a child as a single mom, remarry, get breast cancer and five years later be diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
“You live with these people and you die with these people,” Sedgley said. “There are special hugs that are given every week to special people. It’s an emotional coffee. It’s a community, it’s a love. And I hope [everyone] gets that in their lives.”
Espresso Road is located at the northern end of the Farmers Market.
LANI CHAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.