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Lots O’ Liquid: Hot Tubs, Suds And Espresso

Get with it, North Idaho. A recreation paradise with no public hot tubs? Even the Romans had baths for the citizenry.

Luckily, Tom and Kelly Sullivan have wasted no time filling the embarrassing void. They opened Tubs Coffee House on the eastern end of Coeur d’Alene last month. By the end of summer, they’ll have two hot tubs in which people can soak while they sip.

The Sullivans took one look at the rundown cabin a baby step off the start of the Centennial Trail’s best part and knew it was the perfect place for a soak.

“We saw this building and we had to have it,” Tom says, leaning against the copper coffee bar that draws the eye of everyone who enters. Besides, this building was all they could afford.

It needed work and the Sullivans had no money. But they had talents. Tom, who’s 28, had owned a Saab repair shop in San Francisco before moving to Coeur d’Alene last year. Kelly’s colorful paintings hang all over San Francisco.

Tom traded his 1987 Alfa Romeo for the bar and his 1986 Mazda truck for the espresso machine. He installed a transmission for the coffee grinder and brakes for an antique stove.

Kelly, who’s 32, is painting a mural on Roxy Antiques in exchange for a refrigerator, cash register and other antiques.

The Sullivans covered the bar with roofing copper and installed a cedar floor. Kelly painted the walls to look like marble. Friends gave them an old upright piano and a working 1940s-era freezer.

After Kelly and Tom opened for business, they even traded a smoothie to a little girl for a kitty they named Beans.

While they wait for the hot tubs to arrive, the Sullivans are serving espresso drinks, pastries and lunch to the sounds of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. They’re renting in-line skates and, later this week, pouring microbrews.

The tubs are next - one four-person and one eight-person by the end of summer.

“It’s the right time,” says Kelly. She and Tom need the business to help them support the baby they expect next winter. “This area’s ready.”

Doing his duty

Coeur d’Alene’s Ben Keeley is never satisfied. The waiting room in Kootenai County’s Veterans Service Office is jammed with people daily. But Ben, the county’s veterans service officer, wants more.

He spent his vacation and $1,500 of his own money getting the certification he needs to represent his veteran clients in federal court in battles over benefits, pensions, etc.

Not impressed? Then you’re not a veteran. In the Northwest, only veterans offices in Boise and Seattle have people with Ben’s qualifications.

Funny thing, though. For as much as Ben wants to help his fellow veterans, he says some senior vets won’t have anything to do with him because he’s too young. His beard may be chestnut brown, folks, but he’s 50, served in Vietnam and retired after 22 years in the U.S. Army. Call him at 769-4427.

College tuition

How many people have wished for a winning lottery ticket to pay their kids’ college tuitions? The wish came true for Hayden’s Robert and Linda Johnson. They won $50,000 last week on an Idaho Lottery ticket Robert bought from Hayden’s Shortstop Texaco.

They plan to invest some of the money in a retirement fund and some in their daughter - for college tuition. Hmmm, $50,000 should cover about two years …

Antlers in every house

What’s hardest to explain to visitors about North Idaho? The pickups with hunting rifles in their windows and lattes in their cup-holders? Explain it first to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814; fax to 765-7149; or call 765-7128.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo