Cafe life

Before the current rush of new businesses, Daycamp Coffee set the scene in Meriam Park

Kyle Nies, co-founder of Daycamp Coffee, one of the first businesses to open in Meriam Park. (Photo by Jason Cassidy)

This feature is part of the CN&R’s 2023 Entrepreneur Issue.

When Daycamp Coffee opened in September of 2019, co-founder and general manager Kyle Nies says it was one of only a handful of businesses in the neighborhood. There was Da Capo Style House next door and the since-closed Pacific Culture fermented foods business across the parking lot. Plus, only one set of apartments had been finished in the surrounding development.

“We were still a little frightened,” Nies said. “We were opening our doors to a place where there was nothing around us, no foot traffic.”

Today, new entrepreneurs setting up shop in Meriam Park are moving into a much different situation, one with several pockets of homes, apartments and townhouses fully occupied, and an established local presence thanks in large part to public events at The Barn venue, as well as the foundation that Daycamp has provided as a social hub for the neighborhood.

Cappuccino (photo courtesy of Daycamp Coffee)

“Daycamp adhered to the vision that he had,” Nies said, referring to cafe owner/co-founder and Meriam Park developer Dan Gonzales, “[that] the cafe environment and what coffee brings to a community is a great place to start.”

During a recent interview in the cafe’s test kitchen, Nies admitted that those early guinea pig days went better than he’d expected.

“We were really surprised by how many of these existing neighborhoods around us—like Doe Mill—came over and supported us,” he said. “That’s something I love about Chico, that desire to support local businesses.”

The best picture of the cafe is seen in the light of a sunny day, when the giant roll-up door is open to the east-facing patio, allowing the open concept design to extend into the fresh air to take in the view of the foothills in the distance. On a typical morning, Daycamp is humming with a friendly crew of hip-looking baristas serving a mix of students camped at laptops, professionals meeting clients and young moms in yoga pants hauling kids in strollers. As busy as it gets, the scene inside the spacious cafe remains relaxed and inviting.

After the first several months of business, Daycamp did endure a difficult patch. The cafe, like most every other business, had to close the doors during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Nies said they weathered the pandemic by paring down the operation to takeaway only, setting up a coffee cart at the open roll-up door, which is something he has experience with. Before Daycamp, Nies was the roastmaster for Great State Coffee Company, and he used to serve his coffees from a cart posted up inside the Chico Municipal Building.

Daycamp’s coffee is roasted in-house as well, with the process on full display at a giant yellow roaster inside the space. In fact, the coffee-making—from sustainable, seasonal sourcing to roasting a few feet from where it’s brewed—is the focus, alongside the cafe’s community-building mission.

When asked about how he sees Meriam Park’s place in the greater community, Nies said, “It’s feeling more and more like Chico. … We definitely see the Meriam Park locals a lot, and the teams that are working for our neighbor businesses. We are [also] seeing—and I’m surprised—a lot of students. I’ve been serving coffee in Chico for over a decade and I’m seeing faces I was serving coffee to downtown. So, people are starting to make the trek out here.”

And within Meriam Park itself? Has a neighborhood vibe developed among tenants of the commercial Tank District? “I think it still has room to really take off,” Nies said. “I definitely see some more collaboration in the future.”

As for Daycamp’s future, Nies says he’s expanding commercial coffee sales—both to local business and online customers—and the cafe will be ramping up its food program, as well as starting to host live music.

Daycamp Coffee
1925 Market Place, Ste. 150
Open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily

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