LaTanya Smith opened her brand new cafe amid the pandemic, but found her footing – Pasadena Now

Besides cafe staples like breakfast sandwiches, smoothies and waffles, My Place Café on Los Robles Avenue boasts uniqueness in that it sells coffee straight from a coffee cooperative. Tanzanian run by a family member of local hero Jackie Robinson.

The youngest son of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, David Robinson runs the Sweet Unity Farms coffee cooperative, located in a remote corner of southwestern Tanzania. The 300-farm coffee cooperative is owned and operated by farmers and gives small-scale farmers access to the international coffee market.

A teacher-turned-owner of My Place Café, LaTanya Smith said her cafe sources its beans directly from Robinson’s Unity Farms cooperative in Tanzania.

Opening during the pandemic

Opening at the start of the pandemic in January 2020, Smith said she faced serious challenges, including a sharp drop in revenue and supply issues. But thanks to word of mouth and a steady stream of regulars, the cafe is slowly but surely growing.

“[I faced] all the challenges! Not really known, being a brand new company and all supply chain demand. We didn’t really have a lot of stuff…so I had to make something out of nothing,” she said. Pasadena Nowas she recounted how her cafe had been forced to close for four months and change operations to survive.

When her business was hit by the pandemic, Smith said it was difficult to get grants because the cafe was just getting started.

The situation forced her to return to teaching while managing My Place Café in order to be able to pay her staff.

“I just had to go back to teaching part-time to be able to make money at the café. And that’s how we succeeded. »

As the months passed and COVID restrictions eased, Smith said My Place Café operations had begun to resume.

She reconnected with regulars at the café and distributed flyers around the neighborhood to let people know more about what the café has to offer.

Maximizing the use of the café’s outdoor space to make everyone feel safer and offering more take-out food on the menu has also helped it survive.

“We’ve always had bagels and pastries and things like that. But during the pandemic, waffles and the breakfast sandwich have definitely grown in popularity. And that’s what increased our income from selling these sandwiches. »

Background

Smith is the third owner of the café, which was previously called Sidewalk Café. Before acquiring it, she had experience working for the café as a volunteer.

Eventually the previous owner gifted her the cafe and she bought it and changed the name to My Place Café.

“The reason I went to volunteer was because my church, which is Fellowship Monrovia, wanted to have a coffee cart and wanted me to learn some things about coffee so that we could have a coffee cart for school. church. And basically that’s how I got into coffee. And it became a great relationship.

Despite making progress, Smith couldn’t say his business, as well as other black-owned businesses in the city, were thriving.

“I think we’re all still struggling,” she said. “It’s a huge recession and it’s having a huge impact.”

Smith also mentioned the difficulty of keeping up with Pasadena’s high tax rates and high rents among the challenges currently affecting Black-owned businesses in the city.

“Taxes in Pasadena are some of the most expensive,” she said. “This tax really impacts buying things in Pasadena because it’s more expensive than even going to Burbank or Glendale because their taxes aren’t as expensive as ours.”

For more information about My Place Café, visit: https://monplacecafe.net

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