Tim and Kati Case opened Case Coffee Co. three years ago.

Running a business is hard. But you would never know it, watching a pair of 23-year-old coffee vendors thrive.

Tim and Kati Case opened Case Coffee Co. three years ago. The Ashland couple met when they were just 16, fell in love and started planning to go into business.

"We always wanted to open our own place," Kati said, "and I had worked in coffee for a long time."

With the money they had saved, the couple was able to lease a space on Siskiyou Boulevard, across the street from Southern Oregon University.

They could not have picked a better location. During the school year, students crossed the boulevard in droves for one of Case Coffee's home brews. After a few growing pains early on, business grew from steady to booming.

With cash on hand, the couple started looking for ways to broaden their shop's appeal, and on a family vacation to Italy last winter, they got just the idea they were looking for.

Walking around Rome took them to store after store selling cool, refreshing gelato. Like ice cream, gelato is made with sugar and milk, but it is less creamy and lower in fat.

"It was our first taste of gelato, and it was everywhere," Kati said. "We pretty much had cappuccinos and gelati the whole time we were there."

They liked it so much that they brought the idea back with them. Just a few weeks ago, they began serving gelato at their store. Offering 10 different flavors, from chocolate to lemon, the couple says their new treat has been a hit with customers.

"People love it," Kati said.

Adding the dessert to their menu was just one of the moves Tim and Kati made this summer. Influenced by the coffee shops seen on their travels through Italy, they spent the past few months remodeling. Kati said they hope the changes will give their store a more artistic feel, encouraging customers to stay around a bit longer.

At the age of 23, when most people ask themselves what to do next, Tim and Kati Case seem to have their futures figured out. They say running their own business is filled with unexpected challenges. But they love their jobs regardless.

"It's overwhelming at times, but it's also rewarding," Tim said. "Every year has gotten better." He is confident that trend will continue.

"It's taken three years to figure out what our vision is for the coffee shop, and we're still evolving," he said.

Case Coffee is located at 1255 Siskiyou Blvd. It is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.