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City Heights Coffee House Grows From Cart To Storefront

Sterling Tran sits cross-legged in front of her laptop on the floor of the fu...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: Sterling Tran sits cross-legged in front of her laptop on the floor of the future storefront location of the City Heights Coffee House, April 13, 2018.

A nonprofit coffee cart in City Heights that aims to help the community grow through its employment and mentoring program is expanding its operation.

The City Heights Coffee House is relocating from an alley behind a thrift store to a shop along a busy, commercial corridor. The larger space will translate into greater visibility for the nonprofit and more job and training opportunities for its target employees: youth, immigrants and others that may have difficulty getting hired.

Co-Founder Sterling Tran said it will also help the nonprofit build a stronger connection to the neighborhood.

"Now we have the opportunity to meet other businesses and that’s something that's super exciting to me — not only connecting the people that live here but also the businesses that operate here," Tran said.

Ester Van, the owner of the neighboring Chinese herb shop said she was excited about the potential of increased foot traffic.

"I win," Van said to Tran on a recent weekday morning. "You'll make the area for more people."

Enrique Gandarilla, executive director of the City Heights Business Association, which supports businesses in the area, said the coffee house's relocation is a welcome expansion for the neighborhood.

“Whenever a storefront is leased out, then that’s another business coming in, that’s more jobs and also more tax revenue for the city," Gandarilla said. "It’s also a business that the community wants."

Gandarilla said he has heard from people who want more locations to grab a caffeine boost and that can serve as gathering spots.

That void is slowly filling as new City Heights-serving coffee operations have launched in recent years, including Burly and the Bean, Dojo Cafe and a Starbucks. According to an online post, Burly and the Bean hired a barista that was trained through City Heights Coffee House's program.

Co-founder Tran said pending an inspection, the cart will reopen inside 4465 University Ave. while the new interior is constructed. She said she plans to incorporate decor that reflects the diverse community and possibly hire skilled residents to create additional design elements.

The nonprofit focuses on employing youth, immigrants and others who may face difficulties finding a job.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the Dojo Cafe serves the City Heights neighborhood, but is actually located just outside the community boundaries.

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