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Kai Espresso and Gifts the product of a decade-old dream
Kai Espresso and Gifts owner Krystal Johnson, right, runs the Hudson coffee shop with the help of Sarah Selley, left, and five other employees. Photo by Joshua Scheer

Kai Espresso and Gifts the product of a decade-old dream

Jun 7, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Cafe in Hudson has Italian sodas, coffee and breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

A new coffee shop featuring light food items has taken up in the former Big Red's Café building in downtown Hudson.

Riverton woman Krystal Johnson, 31, opened Kai Espresso and Gifts on June 1, and she is pleased with how the first few days of business has gone.

"I've been wanting to do this for like 10 years," the 1999 Riverton High School graduate said.

Kai's menu features an array of espresso drinks, different coffee roasts, chai, Italian sodas and other drinks.

The beans come from Jackson Hole Roasters, which is owned by a man named Stefan. Johnson said she and Stefan struck up a good relationship.

Stefan helped advise her in her choice of equipment and came to Hudson to train her staff on how to make all of the drinks properly. Her espresso machine is made by La Marzocco, a company in Florence, Italy, which she said is one of the best in the world.

Breakfast sandwiches and a few other early morning meal items like oatmeal and cinnamon rolls are on the menu. Johnson said men who drive to work early have already begun to take advantage of the food.

Lunch sandwiches like chicken salad and BLTs are available. Shrimp rolls with mango are another option.

Johnson said she wasn't planning on having food items at first, but she's glad she changed her mind.

"It has really helped with the sales a lot," she said. "If they don't want coffee, maybe they're hungry."

All of the baked goods are made in-house.

Eventually, Johnson would like to expand the menu's offerings, but she wanted to start small. She expects the menu to evolve over time.

She's hoping to capitalize on the traffic that travels through Hudson from Riverton to Lander and vice versa. The drive-through window caters to that.

Johnson said she will take phone orders and have the food and drinks ready by the time a traveler arrives in Hudson.

Aside from the drive-through window, there are four tables to sit at inside among the items of her gift shop.

Bookcases, shelves and windowsills house items of Johnson's own creations as well as other locals.

Johnson creates glass- and fabric-based art. Also featured in the store are jewelry and pottery by Wendy Heermann, of Riverton.

A few fish fossils found by Johnson's father are dotted about the gift shop.

In total, Kai has a Hawaiian feel, and the name means "ocean" in Hawaiian.

"I've always had a love of the ocean," Johnson said. "I'm just kind of all about the ocean."

Having her own restaurant or coffee shop was something she'd wanted to do for years, and was developing a plan when she learned about the space in Hudson.

"I wasn't even looking for a building," Johnson said. "I just kind of stumbled upon it."

Johnson spent the last two months refurbishing the building and preparing it for business.

"I was working 24/7," she said.

The counter was moved and the drive-through window added.

On Wednesday, some of the front glass was replaced.

Johnson graduated from Central Wyoming College last month, so much of the work done to prepare the space happened in between classes.

"I was taking 19 credits," she said.

She graduated with degrees in both business and art, and she said that Kai is a combination of both of those passions.

Johnson also caters, and the coffee shop can be rented for events.

Kai, located at 109 S. Main St., is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The shop can be reached at 332-2211.

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