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Caf La Mo celebrates one year anniversary with Coffee Festival
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Cafe La Mo owner Hillary Smith serves a cup of crafted coffee to shop regular Ryan Mondragon on Wednesday. Smith said regulars like Mondragon are the reason the coffee shop has been so successful in its first year of business. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

When Hillary Smith opened Café La Mo a year ago with her mother Gloria Smallwood and sister Brityn Butrick, she thought downtown Turlock needed a coffee shop and the enterprise might be fun.

"I must say, running a coffee shop is so much harder than I thought it'd be," said Smith.  "That's before I knew about the world of specialty coffee. I realized I had a lot to learn."

Over the past year, Smith has immersed herself in the culture and business of specialty coffee and the result has been a resounding success. The downtown shop was named the Turlock Journal Readers' Choice for Best Coffee Shop in 2014, and the cafe continues to cultivate an ever-growing group of regulars.

"Turlock has been amazing," said Smith, who acknowledged that the cafe's customers are willing to deal with the sometimes limited parking availability in downtown and wait a little longer for a custom made cup of coffee.

Smith is hoping to thank the community for their support by holding a free Coffee Festival on Saturday in celebration of the café's one year anniversary. The event, starting at 6 p.m.  in the café's E. Main Street courtyard, will feature a variety of coffee-related activities.

There will be public roasting demonstrations by Entimos Coffee, coffee cocktails by Mast Coffee Co., coffee tastings by local roasters and a latte art competition between baristas from Café La Mo and Preservation Coffee and Tea of Modesto.

There will also be small bites to eat from Big Vic's BBQ and a live performance from Bröd Och Vatten, a bluegrass band out of Santa Cruz.

The evening will end with a screening of "A Film About Coffee." The film follows the production of coffee from farms in Honduras and harvests in Rwanda to its global consumption. Listening to farmers, buyers, roasters and baristas about the crop’s economic and environmental implications both locally and abroad, the narrative travels to coffee shops in Tokyo, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and New York, with stops in between. Dropping in on artisanal cafes to investigate how each prepares its own unique cup, the film opens a window into the little-understood world of specialty coffee.

Smith said tickets for the film screening have already sold out, but she encourages community members to come out and enjoy the other coffee-themed events on Saturday.

The Community Coffee Festival will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at 310 E. Main St. For more information, visit