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Love and Aesthetics

The Small Independent Cafe: Heartsleeves Coffee

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The Small Independent Cafe: Heartsleeves Coffee

Words by Marcel Reyes, SDCN Blog Senior Editor. Photos by Julie Rings, SDCN Social Media Manager and Gan Suebsarakham.

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Heartsleeves Coffee, located at 621 West Fir Street in Little Italy, celebrated new beginnings at their Tabula Rasa event on Sunday, March 13. Neighboring Love & Aesthetics' flagship location, guests are greeted by a set of bright turquoise accordion doors. This woman-owned cafe in Little Italy serves locally roasted beans by Swell Coffee Roasters. Event goers were served samples, introduced to the staff of friendly baristas and the owner, Brandi Kirschbaum. “Their mission and vision aligns perfectly with everything we believe in,” Love & Aesthetics’ owner Sean Barnes said, “We know this location is going to be big and they’ve only just begun.” 

“Being the owner of an independent café means I get to be creative all the time,” Kirschbaum declared, “I want to be one of the people bringing the coffee community together. There’s enough room for us all! A coffee network to support each other.”

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Photo by  Gan Suebsarakham .

Swell Coffees’ sales and logistics manager Mondo Rodriguez, and wholesale trainer Kevin Mayberry served several single origin coffees on pour-over. “We are a part of a movement,” Mayberry said. “Specialty coffee is prying into every mind. People are beginning to appreciate amazingly-sourced and prepared coffees. People that wander into independent shops like Heartsleeves are already taking a giant leap.” Swell Coffee showcased their freshly-redesigned created by Jared Armijo-Wardle, head of marketing at Swell and a SDCN alumn, who was also in attendance.

Photo by  Gan Suebsarakham .
Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Nanelle Newbom, Swell’s director of coffees, thinks small independent cafes drive specialty coffee in general. “Small shops drive innovation and set the pace for the industry as a whole,” Newbom continued. By nipping at the heels of the big guys, and by setting trends that the big guys find too risky, they force us all to continue moving forward. Small shops maintain that desire for relationships, and are a place for the soul of coffee culture to thrive. Without them we would move rapidly toward an overly priced, competitive, fast-paced churner of numbers. The soul of coffee is in its people, and its people are all rooted in independent spirit, in the underdog in good arguments and separating from the pack.”

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Devil’s Dozen Donuts, who brought a selection of their pastries as a complimentary treat for guests, joined the celebration. Their donuts are featured daily on Heartsleeves’ menu, a fresh batch delivered by short walk every morning from Kettner to Fir Street. 

Pop Pie Company's Steven Torres and his partner, chef Gan Suebsarakham, were slinging sweet and savory hand made pies that quickly sold out as a special offering at Heartsleeve's celebration of new beginnings. Pop Pie will be celebrating their own grand opening in Spring. They plan to provide a multi-roaster experience for patrons of their shop.

“We feel like we are a part of holding up the standard of a specialty coffee experience,” Torres explained. “It loops back to building lasting relationships with our coffee suppliers and providing an excellent experience where more and more consumers are choosing to spend their dollars at independent small businesses.” Their coconut creme pies featured real coconut milk and young coonut meat, rather than the heavily-processed coconut flavored products that make store bought pies far too sweet. 

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

Heartsleeves Coffee is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit them for traditional espresso drinks, and their Alice in Wonderland-themed hot and cold lattes.

Photo by  Julie Rings . 

Photo by Julie Rings

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Objects of Desire

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Objects of Desire

In order to showcase the variety of nice packages in this town, the San Diego Coffee Network collaborated with seven local roasters and retailer Love and Aesthetics to shoot the must-have coffee bags of the season. The variety in this selection is rich, with origins that include Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Rwanda.  Photographer Julie Rings, with the assistance of Jose Lopez, took the following pictures at Love and Aesthetics Little Italy, a whimsical location that awakens inner creativity as much as the caffeine of these coffees will. Produced by Pablo Lara. 

A Golden Cup: Cafe Moto's Rwanda

Gold Elephant Book Ends: $48. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Gold Elephant Book Ends: $48. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Elegant and rich, this coffee has a chocolate backdrop with subtle acidity that adds complexity when pulled as espresso. From the Abakundakawa Co-op in the Gakenke District of Rwanda, this coffee represents the responsible sourcing of Sustainable Harvest. Quality cherries have resulted in a higher income for the co-op members. 

The Gilded Cage: James Coffee Co. Pacas, Honduras. 

Italian Bird Cage: $225. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Italian Bird Cage: $225. Photo by Julie Rings. 

For a second year James Coffee Co. features direct trade coffees from the El Cañal farm in Honduras. Their Pacas lot is roasted light, resulting in a clean and balanced cup. Its juicy acidity, notes of peach and buttery body make it memorable and extremely flavorful. This second crop shows improvement from last years harvest which excites the James team to keep working with this farm. Served as pour over in their Little Italy cafe, the brew is crisp and may we say feathery?

Electric Sweetness: Cafe Virtuoso's Santa Isabel, Guatemala. 

Concrete Base: $58. Edison Bulb: $48. Albion Burl Table: $135. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Concrete Base: $58. Edison Bulb: $48. Albion Burl Table: $135. Photo by Julie Rings. 

For four generations the Santa Isabel farm of Santa Rosa, Guatemala has produced high-quality beans. They started implementing organic agricultural techniques in 2007 in order to preserve the biodiversity of the farm. This roast is a blend of natural processed Caturra, Catuai and Bourbon varietals resulting in  flavor notes of chocolate, almond, strawberry. The wine like acidity ties together the sweet notes resulting in a balanced cup. 

In the Monkey's Paw: Bird Rock's Monkey Bite. 

Wise Chimp Candelabra: $295. Med Machine Porcelain Jar: $69. Antler Jewelry Holder: $56. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Wise Chimp Candelabra: $295. Med Machine Porcelain Jar: $69. Antler Jewelry Holder: $56. Photo by Julie Rings. 

A stand out amongst blends, the Monkey Bite Espresso is seasonally updated to layer the best attributes of in-season beans. Due to the rotation of origins and constant calibration its profile is unpredictable but always adheres to its adventurous personality. Buy a bag and transport yourself into the romanticized adventure of sourcing at origin, experience exotic flavors and rich acidity. 

The Caffeine Bust: Swell Coffee's El Socorro Yellow Bourbon, Guatemala. 

Phrenology Head: $240. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Phrenology Head: $240. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Near Guatemala City, in the municipality of Palencia, Diego de la Cerda works hard to produce some of the best coffees coming out of Guatemala. Famed by his Cup of Excellence awards, Diego has integrated rigorous quality control into all aspects of farming and milling. This fully washed yellow bourbon has notes of golden raisins, bright chocolate and plum. A delight in both espresso and pour-over. 

A Medley of Goods: Coffee and Tea Collective's Kii AA of Kirinyaga, Kenya. 

Porcelain Jar: $14. Salt and Pepper Shaker: $21. Porcelain Milk Jug: $18. Photo by Julie Rings.

Porcelain Jar: $14. Salt and Pepper Shaker: $21. Porcelain Milk Jug: $18. Photo by Julie Rings.

Fully washed and sun-dried this coffee grabs your attention with its intense caramel aroma. The syrupy body coats your mouth as you pick up the plum notes and floral finish. Pulled as single origin espresso the brown sugar layers with the plum to create a distinct flavor reminiscing of candied figs. This coffee bag should be placed on the dessert aisle of this porcelain grocery store. 

Playfully Orange: Dark Horse Coffee Roasters' Ethiopia Guji.

Neon Orange Pickup Truck: $110. Who's There? by Alain Crozon $10.99. Shadowville by Michael Bartalo: $16.95. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Neon Orange Pickup Truck: $110. Who's There? by Alain Crozon $10.99. Shadowville by Michael Bartalo: $16.95. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Once brewed, this bag of heirlooms results in an explosion of orange blossoms. This distinct floral  is striking yet delicate. The washed process brings out elegant fruit notes which play along with a brown sugar sweetness to recreate a spiced orange marmalade. Try it out as a single origin espresso at the Dark Horse in North Park in order to be awaken by its vibrancy. 

The Most Rare of Essences: Bird Rock's Esmeralda Lino Natural Geisha. 

Vintage Apothecary Bottles: $11. Photo by Julie Rings. 

Vintage Apothecary Bottles: $11. Photo by Julie Rings. 

A wise botanist has the rarest of essences, and carefully stores them in apothecary jars. Because of its sun-dried natural processing the Geisha Lino, of the famed Esmeralda farm of Panama, is a rarity among such an exotic varietal. It is one of four specialty Geishas of 2015 coming out of the direct trade partnership of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters and La Esmeralda. This exclusive micro-lot will captivate your senses with notes of white nectarine, mango, rose, fruit punch and silky white chocolate. 

A special thanks to Sean Barnes, owner of Love and Aesthetics, for collaborating with the San Diego Coffee Network to realize this creative piece. 

Visit Love and Aesthetics:

 621 W Fir St, San Diego, CA 92101

Monday: 12:00 am – 6:00 pm

Tuesday-Friday: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday: 11:00 pm – 12:00 am

More information on its sister location in North Park here

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From Cart to Café: M.A.D. FiX’s Dottie’s Top Five Tips For Transitioning Into A Brick-And-Mortar

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From Cart to Café: M.A.D. FiX’s Dottie’s Top Five Tips For Transitioning Into A Brick-And-Mortar

Words by Marcel Reyes, Staff Writer. Photos by Jose Lopez, SDCN Contributor. 

Dottie Necool, Co-owner of M.A.D. FiX, posing at the cafe's courtyard. Photo by Jose Lopez.

Dottie Necool, Co-owner of M.A.D. FiX, posing at the cafe's courtyard. Photo by Jose Lopez.

Walking into M.A.D. FiX Coffee, a charmingly refurbished carriage attachment in the courtyard next to Love & Aesthetics in the Fir Street Cottages of Little Italy, it’s easy to see the beauty of the space. Under a large sail in the courtyard, a shady patio of tables is dappled with golden bands of late afternoon sun. Dottie Necool must have stood here transfixed in early February dreaming of the perfect home for the next phase of her coffee venture. 

Clockwise: Brandi Kirschbaum, Antonio Zepeda, Dottie Necool and Chanel Konja. Photo by Jose Lopez.

Clockwise: Brandi Kirschbaum, Antonio Zepeda, Dottie Necool and Chanel Konja. Photo by Jose Lopez.

Sean Barnes, the extremely talented curator and designer of L&A, collaborated with M.A.D. FiX Owners Dottie Necool and Brandi Kirschbaum to bring to life their café vision, working with contractor Chris Gaus to customize fixtures such as shelves with copper piping to complement the copper counters. A red door was the very first change made to the space, a welcoming and auspicious color. Then the “Dream” marquee light was ordered and delivered. This shop is representative of the dreams of so many, especially Dottie, who wanted a cool place for their friends to gather that was an alternative to the big corporate franchises and had a totally unintimidating vibe that was elusive in the fleet of new specialty cafés.

The M.A.D. Fix team showing Sean Barnes (posing in the center) some love. Photo by Jose Lopez.

The M.A.D. Fix team showing Sean Barnes (posing in the center) some love. Photo by Jose Lopez.

M.A.D FiX opened in May 18, 2013, two years ago, on C Street between 6th and 7th on the trolley line. It wasn’t only a freestanding cart, it also had a railing for tables and chairs and a bit of a pop-up café set up. It catered to the nearby corporate businesses and banks, and the nearby tourist mall crowd at Horton Plaza. Its main clientele were the many international students at the language school nearby.  Dottie wanted to open it because of her own love of coffee. At the time, Dottie was serving Dark Horse roasts and was one of their first wholesale accounts.

Early 2015, Sean called Dottie to inform her of the newly vacant space in the neighboring building of his courtyard. And on May 18, 2015, M.A.D. FiX opened its beautiful red café doors to the Little Italy locals and metropolitan tourists of San Diego.

The M.A.D. FiX Brew Bar. Photo by Jose Lopez.

The M.A.D. FiX Brew Bar. Photo by Jose Lopez.

M.A.D FiX uses  Calabria's espresso, with the endorsement of Arne & Todd from Calabria who trained their whole staff coming to the cafe before and after opening, tweaking the machines to fine-tune for best possible product.  M.A.D. FiX also uses Swell for their cold brew and decaf drinks, one of The Swell Coffee Roasting Company’s first café partnerships.

V60's and Love and Aesthetics dandy mugs. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

V60's and Love and Aesthetics dandy mugs. Photo by Jose Lopez. 


Brandi Kirschbaum, Dottie’s partner in the new venture, chalks their business relationship up to friendly chemistry: “I remember the first time I ever met Dottie. I was instantly impressed by her. She was this rock star business owner crafting killer coffee drinks and everyone she came in contact with adored her. I’ve always been a huge fan of coffee and coffee shops and it had always been my dream to own a coffee shop. I knew Dottie was the perfect person to be in business with when all the anxiety that held me back just disappeared and I wasn't scared to take that leap of faith with her and once I saw the location I was instantly in love. Nowadays, we're always joking about how pre-coffee people tend to be a little sluggish and zombie-like and then they take that first sip and their "instant human" ready to go about their day and we helped wake them up! It's such a great feeling to see people happy.”

Dottie enjoys a cup of coffee in front of the welcoming red portals at M.A.D. FiX. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

Dottie enjoys a cup of coffee in front of the welcoming red portals at M.A.D. FiX. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

With that commitment to service in mind and without further ado, here are Dottie’s 5 Tips For Transitioning From a Coffee Cart to a Bricks-And-Mortar!

1.)   Figure out WHY you want to switch from cart to bricks and mortar.

Is it because you want to expand? Do you want more of a park-and-sit kind of place, rather than grab and go? Do you want more help, rather than a-one-man-show, so you can have a life outside of your business?  Within the first year of my cart, I had already started trying to give it more of an outdoor patio cafe feel, rather than just a street side coffee shop. I remember the days when my regular customer Deana would say to me "Dottie, I could just hangout here all day. Every time I come and have coffee and eat my lunch here with you it's like an escape from the daily grind and gives me something to look forward to." After my one year party I was so excited about the new patio seating for up to 12 people next my cart, enough to have events there. When your business hits that point of growth and success, moving into a bigger permanent space is an organic next step in expansion.

2.)   Do the research to see why it would be a better business model.

Make sure it's worth the investment and the overhead. Figure out why it's better. More customers? More space might help with increasing capacity to meet more transactions an hour? Are customers asking for it to be a shop rather than cart? Consult with an expert and analyze your dashboards. Find out the statistics. And of course, if it’s a response to your culture, and you want to model a culture in a shop, in the décor and in the vibe, then that is just as much a factor. It definitely was for me.

3.)   Be patient, and wait for the right scale of a place.

It doesn't make sense to go from cart to a huge restaurant. Find the right fit. Finding the right fit is so important. Not just on rent cost, but size and setup.  Make the scale in proportion to your vision. Don't get a space so big you can't fill it. Don't pick a location you know nothing about. It will make your life and marketing so much easier and successful if you know who you're marketing to. Make sure the flow is right. Pretend it's your new home, feel it out, visualize you and your staff there behind that counter, imagine the colors and menu board and espresso bar set-up. Don't feel it? Don't pick it! It's your place of business and home away from home... make people feel welcome by choosing a space you sincerely love. 

4.)   Figure out your investor situation before jumping into the financial prep process.

Most people get an investor or a business partner either because they don't have enough of the capital themselves, or they need to increase their credit line possibilities. Take the time to make sure you pick the right person. If you are passionate, dedicated, and believe in your brand and business - then you need someone who believes in you and your product 100% as well. Also, money is the toughest subject in any business relationship, so you want to make sure you pick someone who knows how much it's going to take and HOW long both of your investments will possibly take before seeing any return. Make sure it's a right fit, a true partnership, and that it’s someone who understands your vision and wants to preserve it. Last tip on that, is write a very clear and fair business contract.

 

5.)   BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

Only YOU know what you're capable of. Believe in yourself and others will believe too! Every day, remind yourself WHY you are doing this. Why you get up so dang early being a part of people’s days! Know what you’re worth, and how amazing you are for taking a risk in a competitive world. Be a boss. Be yourself.  BE NICE and WORK HARD ...it pays off. 

The M.A.D. FiX Team has gone bananas. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

The M.A.D. FiX Team has gone bananas. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

Tom Ford Models, I mean the M.A.D. FiX Team. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

Tom Ford Models, I mean the M.A.D. FiX Team. Photo by Jose Lopez. 

Check out M.A.D. FiX Coffee at 621 West Fir Street, walk right into the courtyard between L&A and Vitreum: 7am – 7pm every day, summer weekends until 9pm! Along with their crafted espresso drinks, they are serving Mark Pelliccia’s quiches and pastries from The Raspberry Factory. They also serve Nomad Donuts everyday except Tuesdays.

Dottie and Jose Lopez, SDCN Contributor. 

Dottie and Jose Lopez, SDCN Contributor. 

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