There will be no more green tea poured, scones baked or salads chopped for Jim Postma and his team at Café Bliss. After close to 31 years of business the popular Oakdale café closed its doors earlier this spring.
Postma shared the closing of the business was far from an easy decision, yet the COVID-19 pandemic placed him in a place of evaluating the continuation of a business he’d operated close to half of his life.
“It’s been kind of a surreal experience,” Postma said, several weeks following the announcement of the Café Bliss closing. “My thoughts over the last couple of years were to take it for the next couple of years and retire when I’m 65, I’m now 63.”
The pandemic, however, altered the plan, as Postma had initially hoped to sell the business as a turnkey offer. Recognizing the probability of that in uncertain times as a “pipe dream” the owner made the decision to simply close the business and sell what he could.
“It made me just reconsider the feasibility of continuing my operation and also the health concerns,” he said of the COVID-19 reality. “Just a lot of things.”
First opening the business in late summer of 1989, the founder shared the café offered something different for the community. A “difference” which quickly found a faithful following of customers with an appreciation for quality coffee, tea and fresh deli lunch choices.
Postma noted Café Bliss has been in the same location since 1989. It began as a partnership with family, starting with gourmet coffee which was popular in the bay area and urban parts of Northern California. The family thought the location would help draw customers in need of coffee for travels or commute. With family in the area, Postma moved to Oakdale with his immediate family when he was 14. He shared he considers the 95361 his hometown.
“I had a really good feeling that this was a good location for us,” he said. “The original concept was really to just be coffee oriented, but before we opened up we decided it would probably be to our advantage to open up a lunch oriented place.”
The idea was always to keep it simple, he added, mostly as a deli operation.
“Primarily geared toward making sandwiches and salads,” he said.
That decision proved to be a good one, so much so that close to 31 years later the decision to close the business was one which was difficult for the long time owner.
“Even after I made the decision, I still almost on an hourly basis went back and forth on did I make the right decision,” he confided. “It was a real struggle for me. The pandemic just basically pulled that out from beneath me, as it has with a number of people in so many aspects of life.”
Postma continued, “The world was turned upside down in a relatively short time. That’s been the hardest part to deal with.”
Of the many implications of closing down, the long-time owner said the inability to connect with his clientele and community amidst the closure was perhaps the hardest.
“Suddenly to have all that yanked from underneath you and to not be able to tell what has really been great community support for all these years,” he shared. “I don’t think you can replicate that in a larger setting, in a larger city. There’s something about having what I did, in a small town. A small café in a small town, you get to know your customer base basically as family.”
Postma shared he’s found it hard to properly communicate his gratitude to the community given the circumstances. Emotions have been overwhelming due to the outreach and positive feedback from the community, via social media.
“This is the industry that has probably been impacted more by the virus probably than any other sector of our workforce,” he said. “So get out there and support these local businesses. I’m wishing anybody who’s staying in the business the best of luck and trying to support them the best I can.”
In addition to his clientele, Postma shared he’s felt abundantly fortunate by the staff and dedication of his employees he’s had through the years, noting them as family and a viable piece of the café’s success.
“Café Bliss is done. I had mixed feelings about that, but there’s a part of me that feels it was such a small business and it was so personal that unless there was a real financial benefit to it, I kind of like taking the name with me,” the founder shared. “It’s almost like my middle name.”
Community members and former clients interested in connecting with Postma may do so by mail at: Café Bliss, PO Box 2142, Oakdale, 95361.
“Café Bliss was my life for 30 years and it was a good life,” Postma continued. “I love the people of Oakdale. I love my clientele. I miss so many people that I saw on a daily basis. I just want the people of Oakdale to know, all my clients over these years, they kind of made my life.”