Here’s looking at you

JoAnn Adams (front and center), co-owner of Bogart’s Coffee House, poses with some of her customers as they celebrate one-and-a-half decades of business on Ocean Avenue. Photo by Tyler Adams

Last Saturday, Bogart’s Coffee House celebrated its 15th anniversary in Seal Beach. The Sun sat down with owners JoAnn and Bud Adams and discussed this milestone.

Sun: How did the name Bogart’s come about?

JoAnn: When we found the ocean location, we wanted a Moroccan seaport theme. (Hawaiian had been done.) We were watching “Casablanca” and said, “Why don’t we just call it Bogart’s?” and that’s how it happened.

Sun: Are you both local or are you transplants?

JoAnn: I grew up in New York and came out here in 1992. Bud grew up in East Los Angeles. We currently live on the border of Long Beach and Los Alamitos but we both have always loved the beach.

Sun: Was Bogart’s your first business or did you operate a small business prior to opening the store?

JoAnn: We had never run small businesses in the past. My background is in project management. I attack everything as a project and this was no different. I hired a consultant and he helped us with training, selecting the equipment, setting up the physical look of the store. Then I took it on as a project and made it happen and that’s the way it’s been ever since.

Sun: How is it working with the city of Seal Beach? Is it a good relationship?

JoAnn: I haven’t had anychallenges working with the city. Last year the city changed how they allow or disallow businesses in town to have live music. That was a big challenge. We had a lot of our customers stand up and support us. Not just us; other businesses wanted to host local musicians without having to pay exorbitant fees. We were able to make it happen. But that was one of the only times we had to work with the city on anything specific.

Sun: Give us a snapshot of what business has been like these past 15 years.

JoAnn: This past year was one of our best years. I would definitely say our business is growing; every year has been an up year. The music has kept the foot traffic going in the evening times or during times that would be usually slower.

It’s funny; when we first opened, people would say it’s a shame we weren’t on Main Street, meaning, we wouldn’t have the foot traffic on Ocean like we would have on Main Street. Now, 15 years in, people ask how us did we get this great location? In my estimate, we made it a great location. Where the Hangout is now used to be called Kind of Lahaina; it made it a popular corner. With us coming in, and the burrito place next door and now the Hangout, these things boosted the business on Ocean.

Our foot traffic is in rhythm with the rest of the town, particularly in summer. When people complain there is no parking in summer, I see that as more people being around to buy coffee.
Sun: On your website, you point out you support free trade and your roaster is in compliance with free trade regulations. Please explain.

JoAnn: At the very beginning, we were introduced to a local small batch all organic roaster. They are located in Orange County. We liked their philosophy on working with small farmers around the world. All of them are organic and they pay attention to the rules of free trade and organics. We rely on our roster. We have a custom blend arrangement with them. Our blends are specific to Bogart’s but they do all the roasting for us.

Sun: What is the biggest challenge related to running a small business?

JoAnn: Working with young employees. The nature of the job is a transient job; high school and college students. I’ll have employees work six or seven months and then they’re gone to the next thing. We make it a nice environment and we pay a competitive wage. But keeping the store fully staffed is most challenging.

Sun: What is the biggest reward of running a business this long?

JoAnn: That’s an easy one; it’s the feeling of community we have. We love being part of the town. We love having people share with us the joy of having the store in the community. We have musical events featuring a local performer, from the high school or college, and we have 30 people show up. It’s makes us feel so good to be part of that.

Last year we had people tell us their Bogart’s stories and we had people telling us they’ve been coming in since they were three-years-old. One person said she would come in with her father and now she comes in with her daughter.

One story was about getting engaged after they met at the store. Or they have traditions, like getting hot chocolate and walking out on the pier every Sunday. We are part of people’s lives; that’s what makes me feel so good.

Bud: When I first got the idea of opening a store, the location was the prime concern. My initial idea was finding a location along the coast, from Long Beach down to Newport. The first day I drove past the Seal Beach pier, there was a for lease sign on the building where we are located. Good karma.

Sun: After all these years of running the store, what have you found to be the most interesting or unexpected thing to occur?

JoAnn: It always surprises me when people tell me they’re wearing a Bogart’s shirt in other places and people recognize the store. We were at the Solstice Festival in Santa Barbara and Bud was wearing a Bogart’s shirt and people came up and said, “Hey, we know that place.” Our friends were traveling in Europe and were at a café in Amsterdam. When the waiter realized they were from Southern California, he asked if they knew of a coffee house called … yep, Bogart’s.

Sun: What do people say brings them back to Bogart’s?

JoAnn: In addition to our coffee, what I hear most is people love our employees. I hire people I like and they give great customer service. You can teach people how to make coffee but you can’t teach them to be nice and welcoming.

JoAnn and Bud said they have no immediate plans to open another store but, as JoAnn said, “You never know.”

Here’s looking at you