Foregone-Coffee-Bean Conclusions: The Closing of the Bean, the End of an Era
Deborah L. Gordon
One regular Thursday morning, when scrolling through the Hillygram, I came across the following photograph:
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT OVER THE YEARS.
After careful consideration and with a heavy heart, this location is permanently closing end of business day on Friday, October 26, 2018. Please know that this decision was not decided upon lightly and we too were disappointed to have to close our doors.
I must have read that wrong. I zoomed in on my phone, so I couldn’t get it wrong. This location is permanently closing…
I texted a close friend: “What’s the deal with Coffee Bean?”
Her response: “Yeah, I know. I heard about it at aqua [aerobics] yesterday. Can’t believe it!”
We texted back and forth for a few minutes; how could it be, given the store always seemed busy? I pondered this, figured it might be due to the exorbitant rental prices in our area that have been ousting stores—including others that also seemed to be doing well—left and right.
When “My Coffee Bean” first opened, we had been in Eretz Yisrael for an extended stay. We came back to see the “chalav Yisroel Coffee Bean” at the corner of Beverly and Alta Vista. Yay! Not only another kosher coffee shop in the ′hood, but a quality one with various chalav Yisrael powders and milk.
Even back then, getting a “Coffee Bean” wasn’t something we took lightly, given the hefty price tag for an Iced Blended or Chai Tea Latte (two family faves) when you added in the extra chalav Yisrael charge, to boot. But one medium Pure Vanilla was plenty for two kiddies to split, each with her own cup and prized purple straw. (How many of us have purple straws on the floors of our minivans?) Many, many afternoons I ventured there with my double stroller to meet a friend with her kids, then sit and schmooze as long as they’d let us, before heading to Gardner Park (only non-locals call it Pan Pacific Park).
As the years passed, the centrality of this location, combined with the chalav stam and chalav Yisrael offerings, made it the iconic meeting place for coffee dates with friends, business meetings, and even a monthly Rosh Chodesh breakfast gathering. It became the go-to for high school girls before or after school. It was the perfect destination for that lazy Sunday afternoon outing, the kids on bikes and scooters. Or the place where, after a long fast, Hubby stopped in to get our requisite break-fast coffee.
I have a fond memory of being in line behind a New Yorker once, who remarked, “You can get all of this chalav Yisrael?!”
I thought, Ha! We have something going on here in L.A., aside from the weather, Mr. N.Y.!
Years back, I found myself there one hectic biur chametz morning, with half of L.A., when that store was sold out of chalav Yisrael vanilla powder. I had to settle for something with chocolate. In fact, the vanilla-powder-sell-out happened almost every erev Pesach, and often in the summertime, too.
Be that as it may, in addition to the sometimes slow service and lack of true indoor seating, “Coffee Bean” became beloved in the eyes of many, who were dismayed at its closing—which seemed to happen way too fast.
(Both of my school-age children knew about the closure before me, of course. But I did know before one friend, who happened to stop by with her husband that night. I mentioned the shop’s closing, and she said an incredulous, “What?! What happened?”
“It’s closing,” I said sadly. “Can you believe it?”
After letting this sink in a moment, she said, “Oh, my! So, I have to go call my client and tell her we can’t meet there tomorrow.”)
That afternoon, with the Friday closing looming, my husband and I headed out to pick up our daughter from school. We decided we’d go one last time, even though—given our budget and recent eating habits—I hadn’t had a Coffee Bean with all the trimmings in a very long time. We placed our mobile order on the app; I ordered my (humungous) Chai Tea Latte; for my daughter, a large Pure Vanilla; for my husband, a cappuccino; and we ordered an iced tea for our son, who was still in school. Then we headed to an errand.
Twenty minutes later, we circled back to Coffee Bean. When we got there, a good third of all the local students were there, either waiting in line, sitting outside, or milling around. Behind the counter, the baristas were furiously blending, foaming, and mixing.
Off to the side, I spied two drinks: a Swedish Berries Iced Tea and a small hot cup. After waiting several minutes, when the baristas had no time to look my direction, I said, “Excuse me?”
The young man with the ponytail looked up, “Yeah?”
“We had a mobile order?” I pointed to the drinks.
“Oh, right. But two we couldn’t make. We’re all out of vanilla powder.”
Of course, I thought, taking the two drinks he’d made and my refund, then squeezing past the other customers to get outside.
So, I wouldn’t get my final Chai Tea Latte. My daughter wouldn’t get her Pure Vanilla. My husband took one sip of his cappuccino and said, “It doesn’t taste good. And it’s cold.” And, by the time said son got home, the iced tea was watery. Anticlimactic, to say the least.
We drove down Beverly, into the quiet, darkening night, for greener pastures. Perhaps, as I’d heard rumor, one day soon a new-and-improved chalav Yisrael location would open. Or perhaps not.
I’m not holding my breath and, honestly, I’m happy with my Keurig. But I still feel the loss. It wasn’t the drinks, nor the chalav Yisroel offerings, or the amazing location—although those were nice things. It was a place for us locals to stop on a busy Monday morning or on a subdued summer evening. There’s one less place to run into a friend or see that teacher from five years ago who said just the right thing when your kid was struggling.
Maybe it is just nostalgia. After all, I have a lot of memories in this community, where I’ve lived (for the most part) for over two decades. Coffee Bean is part of those memories, and as I pass by the boarded-up building and the For Lease sign, I feel a pang of sadness for the end of an era.