It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this farewell letter to a space that has housed my hopes, dreams and aspirations as a small business owner/coffee professional for nearly 10 years.
Despite having made it through COVID, our landlord in Little Tokyo, Kajima Development Corp, a soulless group of people as any I've met, had no interest in even negotiating with us to let us hang on in that space for a bit longer. Despite having been a great tenant for them for nearly 10 years, when it came down to helping us out, they didn't so much as lift a finger. If nothing else, I think COVID has exposed the true colors of a lot people, especially landlords.
And so at the end of this month we'll cease operations in our little wedge-shaped piece of Onizuka Street. I know as a business person, I'm not supposed to get emotionally invested in my business. But this one hurts. There's a lot of me in that space, so please forgive the rest of this blog post. I've been feeling exceptionally nostalgic about this whole thing.
I suppose at the end, we think of the beginning. I remember how excited I was the day I got the keys and walked in (see the grin on my face in the photo!). How insanely over-optimistic I was (I really expected lines out the door on day one). The headaches and heartaches of building out the space. Fights with the city, architect and contractor. But also the sweet moments. I fondly remember wrapping leather around foam and stapling it with my girlfriend (now wife) to the benches. The joy it was to see a line out the door the first time. How happy I got when folks told me that they didn't need to add milk or sugar to the coffee we'd just brewed.
But the magic of that space was the wrap-around bar. I got to meet the most incredible people and had some of the most amazing conversations at the bar. My regulars became friends with my other regulars. My baristas became friends with my regulars. We slowly built a reputation and a community and it was truly a beautiful thing. I'm going to miss that bar. A lot.
And I'm going to miss that shop. A lot.
This is not necessarily the end of our run in Little Tokyo. That's a special neighborhood with special people in it. To be part of a really tight community in the heart of DTLA is a testament to how special it really is. We're still looking for an affordable space out there and hope to return better than ever. But a little piece of my heart will forever be in that wedge-shaped shop.