Santa Monica lost at least three big coffee locations last year when the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf closed its stores on Main Street, Santa Monica Blvd, and on Wilshire Blvd. As a devoted coffee and tea lover, I was saddened by the loss of what I considered to be an excellent source of life-affirming liquid and the not so occasional pastry. I’m usually saddened by the closure of a business because I know how much it takes to open one.

Getting a new business off the ground and operational is a huge endeavor, even if you’re doing it as an outlet of a corporation or franchise model that comes with the “instruction book”. Doing so in a bureaucratic heavy city like ours adds challenges that the corporate honchos in some far-off land have no idea of. Then we add in the fact that it is in the ‘food industry’ and you’ve just added another layer of complexity with Health Department Regulations, Vendor contracts that can be cutthroat, and an industry failure rate that exceeds 90% over 5 years. It’s a daunting task in the best of circumstances. Think of it like putting together an Ikea house with 25% of the parts missing, and the wrong picture on the box, and instructions in Swedish only. While your pants are on fire, and your dog is having a nervous breakdown.

Anyone who has worked in the restaurant/retail world has horror stories opening madness. Twenty-odd years ago I was one of the opening servers at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Pier. All things considered, it was a relatively smooth opening. We had lots of staff, good training, no supply problems and the business has clearly stood the test of time. But we still had busy days of crazy. Those first days of finding your footing, of getting the rhythm down between the front-of-the-house hosts and waitstaff, with the kitchen crew are always a bit rocky as people are just not familiar with the menu, the plating, the pacing of food delivery. We had people running into each, mistakes made, wrong orders made and delivered.

Oddly though, I kinda miss that madness. As crazy and stressful as it is to open a restaurant it’s also a ton of fun. You work really hard and that bonds the crew. At the end of the shift, you all sit for a minute to catch your breath, laugh, make the apologies for stepping on toes, and grabbing the wrong table, and make up over beers or drinks or food.

Which is why I’m excited for the two new businesses that are coming alive in Santa Monica. We have the newly opened Jinky’s Coffee that took over the Santa Monica and 2nd Street former Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf location. It’s a good move for them. Now they are anchoring both ends of the block with Jinky’s Café – the more full-service breakfast and lunch restaurant, and the new Jinky’s Coffee for the quick-serve coffee and pastry outlet. I love to see this renovation of the former big corporate spot with a smaller chain growing in its reach.

Up on Wilshire Boulevard, we have an impending opening of Randy’s Donuts. The international producer of early morning carbo-loading. (Okay they have a few locations in South Korea – but that is technically international!) I’m expecting them to open in the near future as the sign has gone up, and let’s face it, there shouldn’t be that much to retrofit the old Coffee Bean into a donut shop. I expect they’ll give their closest competition a run for their money as Sidecar donuts is just down the block, but lacks the outdoor seating with firepit that Randy’s will have. Plus they have more abundant parking and the side street parking to make them more accessible. I do not know if they’ll have the huckleberry donuts that Sidecar carries, but I’m sure they’ll have the buttermilk bars that I love.

It’s good for the city to have these two new businesses reinvigorating the local scene. It means jobs. It means contractors being paid. It means diversity of options and increasing creativity. All in all, I’m glad to see that from the devastation of the pandemic there are new shoots of business growth happening across our city, state, and country.

If you have a good idea for a story, or know of a company that is innovating in some novel way that should be brought to a wider audience, please drop me an email at DAVID@SMDP.COM and let’s see what the future is looking like.