Cruising to a New Career
Erin Buchla, like anyone who worked with small children for many years, is good at problem-solving in the moment. Faced with a devastated customer, a boy who had lost his Pokémon cards after leaving them on top of the car, she got to work.
“I invited all these parents to come out with their kids and bring a couple Pokémon cards,” Erin recalls. “We put them out on this 14-foot table and the kids all shared a couple cards with the boy that lost them and he was just so happy.”
Erin owns Cruise Coffee Cafe in Scotts Valley—a drive-through and a full café—but this second career in coffee wasn’t part of the plan.
“Originally I just took the classes because I had a 2-year-old and I wanted to learn how to be a good mom,” Erin says of her first foray into Early Childhood Education at Cabrillo. “And I realized, Oh my gosh, I love kids!”
With a small son in tow, Erin got her degree and worked first as a preschool teacher and then as a nanny with an accidental specialization in twins. Erin says that she was drawn to the work because of the big impact her little interactions would have.
“Throughout the years, I realized, Wow, you’re really making a difference in the development of this child and you’re creating good humans to go out into the world.”
Erin’s focus as a teacher and as a nanny was on helping young children develop the most important skills they would need in life—skills that might surprise potential clients.
“When I was getting interviewed for nanny positions, parents would say, ‘Oh, do you work on their ABCs? Do you work on their 123’s?’ I said, that’s not my style of nannying. I work on conflict resolution, anger management, just basically being a good person!”
Erin had to change professions when her doctor said no more carrying kids on her hips. Her son, now 32 and married, helped her. First she started the drive-in, and a year ago she expanded to the café location. But there was no way that Erin would move into a world of adults without focusing on the kids. During the Covid lockdowns, she offered fun events at the drive-through such as a donut hole event where families would drive to each station to get their hole and toppings.
During Christmas, they hosted a hot chocolate day where the kids could drive through and get free hot chocolate and a map of Christmas lights.
Her sit-down café features rotating arts and crafts projects, card-making, and special events like flower arranging—all free for the kids. The café’s one-year anniversary on June 12 will feature face-painting and hula-hoop training.
“It keeps me connected to where my heart is. You know, I love coffee. I love my cafe. But I miss my children, so it’s a good compromise, for sure.”
Visit Cruise Coffee Cafe at 246 Kings Village in Scotts Valley. Be sure to stop by June 12 for their kid-friendly anniversary event!
Suki Wessling is a local writer, educator, and radio host with two grown children. Read and listen at Babblery.com