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LA MESA -- This Jewel of the Hills' coffee wars opens a new chapter this week with a new entrant, a coffee cafe that is shooting for the consistency and ambiance of Starbucks with a richer selection of sandwiches and food.
The new Expresso Cafe, the latest franchise in a small, Cleveland-based family chain, is quietly opening this week in the La Mesa Springs Shopping Center on University Avenue.
Located just east of the San Diego Culinary Institute and just south of Vons, the new cafe, which will feature indoor and outdoor seating, was still having the finishing touches applied early this week.
Stylishly decorated with glass tile. copper cieling and comfortable padded seating, the menu boards showed a full-range of coffee and tea drinks with an assortment of Italian panini sandwiches for lunch.
Pete Lambros, General Manager of All the Perks Coffee, the chain's parent company, was in town with his wife Karen to launch the chain's latest outlet. He explained the business doesn't have a full kitchen, but features a high-tech combination convection/microwave oven that allows expedited production of hot sandwiches.
"Instead of several minutes, our paninis take 40 seconds,'' he explained.
The business intends regular hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and 7 a.m. on Saturdays. The managers are booking music into the small space as well to complete the coffee house ambiance.
With a Starbucks located both around the corner and in the nearby Vons, Expresso Cafe is clearly going for a niche that features the coffee house hangout, but with a wider range of foods than Starbucks offers -- more of a corporate version of Cosmos Coffee, just a little further around the corner in La Mesa Village.
Lambros said the La Mesa location marks the 14th location for All The Perks Company in the U.S. Franchises have also been opened in seven overseas locations, including three in Russia and stores in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and Cairo, Egypt.
The staff is being trained this week Lambros said but if customers want to try it out, they can stop by from 11 to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday with full business hours starting with a soft-opening on Friday and Saturday of this week.