Merced County Times Newspaper
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Experience ‘Serendipity’ at Joe On The Go Cafe


‘If we’re meant to meet again, then we’ll meet again.’

— Sara Thomas


This is a story about a popular, family-owned cafe in Merced and the discovery — by chance — of a delectable way to collaborate with another coffee hub in town.

It’s also a story about Serendipity — the word, the movie title, and a young lady by that name who inspired a brand new java blend for locals to enjoy.

When I first met Serendipity, she was a freshman at Merced High School and an FFA member showing an animal for the first time at the County Fair. I was taking pictures for the newspaper. It was around 2016.

With a unique name like Serendipity, the teenager must have been accustomed to the curiosity it provoked, especially since it conjured up images of the classic romantic comedy “Serendipity” that hit the big screens back in 2001.

So I asked the question she probably had heard a million times. And sure enough, I was surprised to learn that, yes, she is named — in part — after the movie. Before she was born, her grandmother had seen the film, and really liked it, and that got the family thinking about the title as a name.

Serendipity, the film, features the mesmerizing on-screen chemistry between actors John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. It tells the story of two people, Jonathan Trager and Sara Thomas, who are searching for each other years after the one special day when they first met, fell in love and suddenly separated. Despite the passage of time, and engagements to new partners, the two remained convinced that one day they would end up together.

Serendipity is also the name of the famous, real-life restaurant in New York where the two fictional characters shared a dessert on their momentous first date. And not to pile it on, but … the actual definition of the word “Serendipity” relates to the movie plot as well. It basically means “happy accident,” or an unplanned, fortunate discovery.

Anyway, back in Merced, I wasn’t expecting to see Serendipity again, until one day I walked into the Joe On The Go Cafe at the Bear Creek Galleria on G Street.

To my surprise, there she was, working the cash register and serving drinks to customers.

It turns out, “Sere” (That’s what they call her for short) is a member of the Burelson family who own and operate Joe On The Go. Her mom, Natalie, makes all the food (everything from scratch); Her dad, Brady, does a little bit of everything, and he’s also responsible for the surfing theme interior, and the Santa Cruz surfing photos on the walls. Her brother, Julius, works the counter too, but he also designs T-shirts, stickers and other marketable items with his own label known as “Shimogo.” There’s also Brady’s niece, Layla, who plays a big part of the family crew.

Together, they have created a successful small business that’s known for specialty coffees and teas, scrumptious breakfast (Try the breakfast burrito!) and lunch offerings, along with local catering. The place is also a cozy hangout for regulars and newcomers alike, with easy access, cool surroundings decorated by local artist Jaden Key, and friendly customer service.

Serendipity is always smiling and greeting customers with a warm “hello.” I found out she graduated from Merced High in 2020 — the pandemic year — just like my own daughter did.

I see her more often now because every week I drop free copies of the Times at a newsstand nearby, and I also leave a small stack on a counter inside Joe On The Go.

The other day I was in need of a coffee, so I went to the counter and Brady offered to make some fantastic mocha creation. That’s when I noticed — to my surprise —  a stylish bag of whole bean coffee for sale with the name “Serendipity.”

I immediately turned to Brady and said: “Serendipity has her own coffee blend?”

He just smiled and then started to fill me in.

Nowadays, at age 21, Serendipity is getting into baking, and her creations are being well-received by customers. She is coming up with delicious scones, buttery croissants, rich cookies and airy macaroons.

Her talent did not go unnoticed by Justin Shen, the local owner of ASIP Coffee Roasters, who came by one day wondering if the Burelsons would want to collaborate through their mutual interest in coffee.

Soon they were making an exciting connection.

“The macaroons are really good,” Serendipity explains. “They are light and airy, and they tend to pair really well with coffee. I was talking with Justin about that, and he told me he could make a coffee blend that would go exceptionally well with all our baked goods.”

So the two small businesses started to exchange coffee and baked goods as a win-win for everybody involved, including local customers.

“We had this great collaboration,” Serendipity recalled, “but then Justin was trying to think of a word for the new coffee blend that he was going to bring to us. We wanted something cool, but we couldn’t think of anything, and then Justin said,  ‘What do you think about Serendipity.’ … And so then … We were like … ‘Ah yeah, that’s really cool, actually.’”

And that’s how a new local coffee blend named “Serendipity” suddenly appeared on the local market.

Well, you can only find it at Joe On The Go Cafe, or maybe at the ASIP coffee house locations on Main Street and in the Raley’s Shopping Center.

At the moment, the blend is in limited supply. But I’m thinking if customer demand picks up, supplies will increase.

I bought a bag of the whole bean blend at Joe On The Go, brought it home, and ground some up for my French press. And I have to say, it’s really good. Nice and smooth. And I’m no pro taster, but I discovered hints of white chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Here’s my advice: Don’t wait any longer. Go to Joe On The Go Cafe, and treat yourself to whatever goodies they have on hand. Let fate and destiny be your guide, and I’m sure you will find Serendipity, in one surprising way, or another.

Joe On The Go Cafe is located at 2806 G Street in the Bear Creek Galleria shopping center. It’s open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (209) 723-0238

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