There is no Starbucks in Clinton, but there is something that’s arguably much better.
It’s called E. Claire’s Coffee House, at 370 Market St.
This is one of the newest businesses in Historic Downtown Clinton, and it’s the creation of Sheri Lynn Younkin, who for the past 11 years has operated an event venue in the same building, called Elizabeth Claire’s Event Center.
For Younkin, opening E. Claire’s Coffee House in mid-March adjacent to the event center was the realization of a dream she had to bring a coffee shop and eatery to the downtown area surrounded by Clinton’s famous antique shops.
“The street desperately needed a place for people to gather,” said Younkin, who lives in Oak Ridge.
To that end, the coffee shop has tables and upholstered chairs scattered throughout that make sitting down and having relaxing conversations quite easy – while sipping one of the coffee creations or eating sandwiches and other fare from the E. Claire’s menu.
Assisting Younkin in the coffee shop is Jody Lowery of Norris, who was also in the event business before coming to work at E. Claire’s.
For now, the menu includes a variety of unique house-made sandwiches on fresh-baked flaky croissants, along with “small bites” items that include Claire’s signature dip and veggies, Pimento Cheese with French loaf and a “Cheese Board.”
There are also house-made pastries and fresh-baked cookies.
There are six employees, and the hours are quite accommodating. Unlike most of the shops on Market Street, E. Claire’s is open seven days a week. Monday through Saturday, the coffee house is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; on Sunday, the hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Five sandwiches are on the menu, priced under $6, with names such as “The Claire,” featuring smoked ham, feta cheese, fried apples and fresh greens; “The Back Door,” with chicken, romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber, mayonnaise and provolone cheese; and the crowd favorite, “The Everything,” which has turkey, ham, bacon, tomato, lettuce, two cheeses and mayonnaise.
Soups created in-house are now being added to the daily menu because the weather has turned cooler, Younkin said. They include white chicken chili and stuffed bell pepper soup.
Among the desserts are “Eclaires,” Napoleons, European cream horns, Tiramisu, cannoli, macaroons, brownies, and a variety of fresh-baked cookies, which are served warmed up.
But don’t forget the coffee. Younkin said E. Claire’s is a “European-style coffee shop,” and features coffee blends from the Claxton-based Golden Roast brand, which is sourced from organic coffee farmers. The coffee is also sold by the pound for customers to take home.
The menu is still evolving, and Younkin promises to continue developing E. Claire’s to please its customers. She also will make pastries and cakes to order “for your holiday table,” she said.
On a recent Friday, E. Claire’s customers included Hannah Isosaki and Spencer McCoy, who drove up from Knoxville. They said they are becoming regular customers, and plan to stop in whenever they come to shop in downtown Clinton.
There are some fun things Younkin is planning with the shop, including “Open Mike Night” for poetry readings and live music; art/painting classes, called “Mochas and Monet,” beginning soon at 6 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays; and “Bring a book, take a book,” featuring a variety of used books placed around the shop.
Anyone donating used books can have a free coffee, she said, and customers are encouraged to sit and read in the shop while drinking their coffee.
“The whole idea is to have a gathering place for people, and I’d also like to have E. Claire’s become an evening hangout for our teens,” Younkin said.