BY CAROLINE ABKAR | March 2017
I am privileged to chat with Ericka Adams today, owner of Bay Park Coffee since 2013 here in the heart of Bay Park. We chatted about why she runs this business, what she loves about Bay Park and, yes, how she feels about Starbucks opening soon nearby. I can tell after a few minutes that she is passionate about giving back to the community and bringing people together. Enjoy the interview and please share your thoughts, comments and questions as always!
Caroline Abkar: Ericka, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Ericka Adams: Absolutely. I am a San Diego native and so is my husband. We are both born and raised here, and we met when we were both commercial pilots. A lot of people don’t know that we are a veteran owned business. We met on a flight during work where we sat next to each other, and 4 months later got engaged and married the same year. We have two children together. We live just outside Bay Park, on the southern side. I left my job as an airline pilot when I got pregnant with my second child, and my husband still flies for FedEx and the military.
Caroline Abkar: Why did you launch Bay Park Coffee?
Ericka Adams: My husband and I both have a love and passion for coffee. We spent numerous nights in hotels that didn’t serve good coffee so we googled best coffee in the world and best tea in the world, found it and decided that we wanted to offer it to the community. One of the things we realized is how much we need to rely on other businesses in order to run our own business, so we try to bring people together by sourcing locally every chance we get. If you can get what you need from your neighbor, it’s the best thing. We also pride ourselves on being more than just a coffee shop by offering lunch sandwiches, so we are actually a mini restaurant now. We didn’t start this to make a profit but if we do that’s great. In fact, we donate quite a bit to various organizations including Tecolote Baseball and Bay Park Elementary. We also offer discounts for military and police. We just love bringing the community together and for us, it’s through Bay Park Coffee.
Caroline Abkar: Why did you choose to run your coffee shop in Bay Park?
Ericka Adams: This business was in place when we wanted to start a coffee shop. It used to be owned by another local family who relocated to Coronado. The husband had a construction company that really took off so we took over in 2013. We walked in and loved what we saw, loved the area, my parents have friends in this area since before we were born. We also fell in love with the employees who were also passionate about coffee and willing to teach us everything they knew.
Caroline Abkar: According to you, what makes Bay Park special as a neighborhood?
Ericka Adams: People who live in Bay Park want to stay in Bay Park. People make friends here, attend the schools here, and they don’t have to drive very far to run their lives. That’s created this sense of community. Parents like you and I get to know their neighbors through schools. We create networks.
I didn’t expect to open a coffee shop to make so many friends. Bay Park is a special place.
Caroline Abkar: What makes Bay Park Coffee unique?
Ericka Adams: I believe we serve some of the best coffee. Our roaster Klatch has won many awards. All our teas are loose leaf and organic. We made a commitment to source local and organic whenever possible, and we also found that people appreciate us having food. We contacted the Health Department and became a restaurant, and we will expand our food offerings. We serve breakfast sandwiches. We serve brioche from Sadie Bakery and just began offering delights from French Gourmet, the spreads are Organic from Charlie’s Butter. Our butter is Vit K grass fed butter, and we slice our own meats and cheeses. Our veggies are organic whenever possible. The food really made the business take off.
Caroline Abkar: Can you tell us a bit more about the coffee you serve?
Ericka Adams: Our coffee journey really started when we found Bird Rock in coffee in La Jolla. We learned about different countries, roasts and the science behind coffee. After Bird Rock opened their storefront nearby, we went back to researching the best coffees in the world again and found Klatch, who it turns out purchase their coffee crops with Bird Rock. Klatch goes a step beyond Fair Trade with what is called Direct Trade, where coffee is purchased directly from the farmers as opposed to dealing with a broker the way corporate coffee shops do, which leaves less profit for farmers and can create hardships for their families.
It is important to us that the coffee is sourced responsibly. It allows better quality control. Klatch has a broader coffee profile and a lot of our local customers like dark roast; we saw an increase in our business when we switched to Klatch. Coffee is a fruit and is seasonal and at the current time, the beans come from plantations in Columbia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua. The roaster is 45min north of here and sends us roasted coffee weekly. It is so fresh and many times still warm when the bag is opened. A lot of people ask us, ‘what is the difference between you and Starbucks?’ and the coffee quality is probably the biggest differentiating factor.
We know exactly how our beans are grown, and what was used in the soil. We don’t get mixed coffee from different plantations.
Caroline Abkar: You emphasize on organic and high quality products quite a bit. I hear decaf is chemically processed most of the time. Is that the case with your decaf coffees?
Ericka Adams: Our decaf is water processed. There are only a couple of places in San Diego which offer this since decaffeination is usually a chemical process. Some people have driven here from a distance just to get the decaf coffee. And on top of that, it’s organic for most of the year depending on the seasonal beans.
Caroline Abkar: How do you stay competitive with other coffee shops nearby?
Ericka Adams: It’s hard to compete on a price level with other coffee shops and we do follow their prices but we do not wish to compromise on quality. If we charge, it’s because we have to. The love of community does not make me a good business person; I tend to want to offer discounts whenever I can.
Caroline Abkar: What are some customer favorites?
Ericka Adams: Our top sellers are brews, cold brews, and lattes. Anytime someone comes in, I like to ask them what they like and dial it in. Our motto is we like to make someone’s perfect cup, and if we’re not making their perfect cup, we have such an extensive selection and all baristas have the right to remake a coffee. We strive to find what each customer’s favorite cup is. We are always up for making a cup of organic coffee for anyone who asks, if it’s not already brewed. We also have options for those looking for something a little less pricey, for instance a latte vs café au lait. The latter is less expensive and yet offers a bit more caffeine. We are happy to help customers with options if they ask.
Lately we discovered a sweetened condensed coconut milk for our Vietnamese coffee and we were floored at how yummy it was. It’s nice and thick and makes a wonderful drink.
Caroline Abkar: How do you feel about Starbucks opening in the Clairemont Village soon?
Ericka Adams: Because I have this business, I have a love for local mom and pop businesses. There are great statistics online about how supporting local businesses brings money back into the local community. I know a bit about the science of coffee, and corporate coffee doesn’t compare with ours if you were to run a taste test. It’s a little bit like wine. I think however the consistency is what makes people go into a chain. It tastes the same each time. For us, coffee is more of an art. They are made by people, and nothing is automated. When you are looking for the experience, you tend to go somewhere more unique. Also, when you start digging into how coffee is made, you look at the history of Fair Trade, you look at the timeline when Starbucks really exploded, when they were buying coffee at $1/pound and farmers barely had enough money to put food on their table. People stepped in and required Fair Trade. Corporate Coffee is bought in bulk which doesn’t necessarily help the families and that’s who I have a heart for: the farmers. Now we are hearing the term Direct Trade more than organic.
I love that we are paying the plantation owners hence the term. It’s a good thing.
Ericka Adams is the owner of Bay Park Coffee located at 4130 Napier St, San Diego, CA 92110. You can read more at http://www.bayparkcoffee.com as well as their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BayParkCoffeeShop/ Don’t be surprised if you see her organize a Meeting Of The Moms sometime in the near future. She loves bringing the community together any way she can. You can be sure I will be there!
About the author: Caroline Abkar is a Real Estate professional who is absolutely passionate about the community as well as helping her clients with one of the most important decisions of their lives. She loves to be an advocate for those who place their trust in her and will go above and beyond to serve anyone needing her real estate services. You can contact her anytime at 619-808-4804 or firstname.lastname@example.org