We always try to profile business owners that can offer some unique advice and showcase their bold business moves within the industry. Today isn’t an exception, as we head down to Santa Monica, CA to chat with Joy Park, the CEO of Brew Coffee Bar.
V. What made you get into the coffee business at such a young age?
P. I got into coffee because I was drinking crappy coffee my entire life, and living in Los Angeles I saw a pretty huge void in terms of good coffee. That is why I wanted to get into the coffee business. My partner Charm and I both went to Cornell for hospitality, so this is very important to us, we really care about service nationally. He opened up a coffee shop in Boston, which was really successful. I wanted to open something in L.A., so we teamed up and started Brew Cafe Bar. We opened up our first location in Santa Monica about 9 months ago, we are open in Yahoo center, and we have a coffee truck as well, which we run daily around downtown.
We came in for the purpose of spreading good coffee as quickly as possible. All these great little coffee shops in L.A. and even in the greater parts of America, are all in these small neighborhoods that are hard to get to, and some of them are a little pretentious. I realized sometimes it’s difficult to actually have access to some great coffee, so our intention was to bring coffee to the people. That’s how we approached this market, which is why we are in Yahoo center right now. We understand that not everyone knows about great coffee, not everyone is willing to drive and walk through that alley and get to the coffee shop on the corner.
V. How did you get your training?
P. I needed to be able to do the craft. I am not one of those owners that are hands-off; I am really hands-on. So, I actually got training in Portland by Stumptown coffee roasters. We got our official training there for a week, and then got constantly trained for the next 10 months. We had them send two trainers for at least a month and half.
What is great about us is that we brought in experienced skilled baristas. Then we added on the Stumptown training, and so we have amazing baristas. For me, there is a difference between someone who cares about coffee, who does it as a career versus someone who just considers it as his/her side job. I went through over 400 apps and interviews to find a great team of less than 10 people, and I am happy about that. Some even moved from out-of-state to come join our team.
I want to build and maintain a work place where our team members are comfortable. You have to put the best people together, but you have to make sure that they get along. I think that is what is a little different from our company in terms of how we hire, how we keep our employees, and how we have a lower turnover even in this industry.
V. Coffee Truck! What is the idea behind it?
P. We really wanted to do a mobile cafe, and doing so has been a great experience. We realized we could build a coffee shop anywhere. You give us 100 square feet of space, we will make it work and run efficiently. It has been 3 months now, and we are the very first coffee truck in Los Angeles. L.A. is the hardest place to get a permit from. What we did different is that we didn’t get your coach-roach average 1980s truck, instead we took a Mercedes Sprinter van and uplifted it with La Marzocco machines and grinders.
It has been great so far. We are doing events with it, so the truck has been very busy. That truck is great in terms of doing something unique on the side and attracting a different market. We did the Easter Sunday Church event and the Porsche Boxster launch among others. I am very fortunate that we got it passed because it was a very difficult process to go through.
V. Anything you want to share with the coffee community?
P. What I find unique about this business is how people’s view and their relationship with coffee are almost traditional. People are used to what they know and coffee is a daily habit. When Starbucks came to the market, people believed that they were a superior product. That is why I respect Starbucks, because they did change the perception of coffee; but the thing is, they just stopped right there. That did bug me and motivated me to start a coffee company of my own. There is actually really good coffee out there from roasters that go on direct trade with the farmers. The farmers grow better beans. The quality control starts from the cherry and Stumptown roasts beautifully. We take it a step further and we have a great team of baristas that can actually craft whatever you order to its honor. It has been a great journey for me educating and opening people’s eyes to what really great coffee is. That is why I am really excited. If I can change someone’s view about coffee, then I believe the knowledge should be shared. For me there are no boundaries, no perfect cup of coffee, no perfect latte art and no perfect baristas. There’s always room for more.