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Beloved coffee shop closes doors

Caffe Montecassino drew artists to 21st Avenue in Forest Grove

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Karen Mossbarger made drinks on one of her last days owning and operating Caffe Montecassino. The Friday before Caffe Montecassino closed, regulars filed steadily through the doors. They wanted last sips of their favorite concoctions — some tailored specially to their tastes.

And they wanted to share their appreciation for the place owner Karen Mossbarger hoped would be Forest Grove’s “most inviting coffee shop.”

One woman who forgot her wallet played the piano instead, as a way to pay for her coffee.

“That piano has been played late in the night when my cleaning was done and early in the morning while the scones were baking,” Mossbarger said.

The small Forest Grove café closed its doors Saturday, March 14.

While the business was doing better than ever financially, Mossbarger said, it wasn’t a good fit for a single mom with four sons.

“My family has been through a lot the last couple years. Losing my longest friend to cancer, the transitions of moving and divorce, changes in friendships,” she said. “It’s time to simplify and refocus toward a new future, so I want to be as available as possible for my kids.”

With four boys, one just two years from going off to college, Mossbarger felt she needed to spend as much time with them as possible.

A regular at the café under the previous owner, Mossbarger took it over two years ago when it came up for sale. “I decided to keep it going so it could be for more people what it was for me,” said the Forest Grove resident.

What was Caffe Montecassino?

It was a welcoming atmosphere that drew artists and locals looking for a peaceful place to relax with friends.

Before buying the restaurant, when she was just a customer, Mossbarger would meet up with musician friends to jam there.

“During what was a very difficult season in my life, I was spending time at the café writing, thinking, reading, meeting with people to talk about our lives, getting to meet others that I never would’ve crossed paths with and because of whom my life became richer and perspective broader,” Mossbarger said.

There were couches and comfy chairs complementing tables, musicians’ CDs and hand-crafted items for sale, local artwork adorning the walls, a piano and guitar for patrons to play and a stacked collection of vinyl.

Comments flooded the Facebook post announcing the cafe’s closure. Some compared it to the bar in the “Cheers” TV show, “where everybody knows your name and your drink.” Others commented on the delicious food, unique beverages and calm, friendly atmosphere. All were sad to see it go.

“It was exactly what I wanted it to be. People who wouldn’t normally cross paths were crossing,” said Mossbarger, who opted not to renew her lease when it ended this month. “This building is my heart and that door is where I let the community in.”

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