With its baristas brewing cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas on a mobile coffee cart inside of a small kitchen, Hollister’s new specialty coffee shop seems like a stripped down, no-frills establishment. Even part of the business’s name–derived from the Spanish word for “skull”–appears to reflect, hmm…a skeletal business approach.
Calavera Coffee sold its first cup of joe on Tuesday, June 12. Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the coffee spot is located at 364 Seventh Street in downtown Hollister.
“It’s a bare-bones project and business model,” said Owner Evan Morris about his new business in a recent sit down interview with BenitoLink.
The 26-year-old explained that he has always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit, though it wasn’t until joining Starbucks as a barista in 2009 that he discovered his passion for making and serving coffee.
Morris later left Starbucks for Vertigo Coffee Roasters. His six-year stint at the San Juan Bautista coffee house introduced him to others in the industry, including Chris Baca and Jared Truby, co-owners of the Santa Cruz-based Cat & Cloud Coffee Co.
Morris credits Baca and Truby with showing him that “coffee can be cool.”
When Morris decided to start his own business, the Cat & Cloud co-owners supported the young entrepreneur by hosting a Latte Art Thrown Down last September. All participant fees and a portion of the merchandise sold that night went towards Morris’ efforts to get Calavera Coffee brewing.
Morris was initially looking for a brick and mortar location in downtown Hollister to house the coffee spot, but the experience proved difficult.
“I had trouble finding the right location and right people to work with,” he said, adding that in the end he chose a business plan that involved “less overhead and less risk.”
Indeed, Morris scaled down his dream by purchasing a mobile, coffee brewing cart and hitting the road. He didn’t have to wait long for his opportunity.
On an errand for Vertigo Coffee, Morris stopped by The Garden Shoppe n’ Bar in Hollister last February. There he met its owner Marci Huston, who also runs the Garden Mart in town. The two chatted a bit and Morris mentioned his plans for Calavera Coffee.
In a telephone interview with BenitoLink, Huston stated that she was immediately impressed by Morris’ vision.
As Morris talked speciality coffee, Huston thought to herself, “I can’t do anything with my kitchen. It’s useless.”
She then extended an invitation to Morris to set up shop in her kitchen. Caught off guard, Morris offered to show Huston his 40-page business plan. The Garden Shoppe n’ Bar owner refused to look at it.
Huston recalled thinking at time, “The kid needs a leg up, and I’ll be the one to help him.”
Elated, Morris began searching for hired hands. He soon found Tabi Medefesser and Jonathon Santana, two twenty-something-year olds whose liked-mindedness, interests, and affable personalities far outweighed their lack of barista experience, according to Morris.
“I want multifaceted employees,” Morris said. “And I want to give young people a paycheck and more opportunities.”
Santana, a self-described foodie, would like to open a restaurant one day. Medefesser is an aspiring artist whose work decorates Calavera Coffee’s mugs, stickers, and pins.
A steady stream of customers entered Morris’ establishment on a recent Friday morning, including Mark Trillo.
A fan of Morris since his days at Starbucks, Trillo ordered his usual double cappuccino before heading to his Hollister business, Trillo Mechanical.
Asked in his phone interview with BenitoLink why he continued to follow Morris, Trillo said, “He’s just a great guy, who’s engaging..and who has a very infectious personality. And he makes a great cup of coffee.”
As a longtime business owner, Trillo believes that Morris has what it takes to be successful.
“He has drive,” Trillo said. “He’s determined, and he treats customers like he would want to be treated.”
On break from their jobs as technicians at a Hollister optometry office, first time patrons Maria Celaya and Claudia Garcia arrived after Trillo had left.
Waiting for her coffee in the patio, Garcia explained that she saw a post on Instagram announcing Calavera Coffee’s opening. The self-described coffee lovers then decided that they would pay a visit.
After their first sip, both agreed that the coffee was to their liking.
Asked if she would return to Morris’ establishment, Garcia said, “Yes. It’s a cool place to come in and have a cup of coffee outside.”
This is exactly the environment Morris envisioned creating when he laid plans to open Calavera Coffee in downtown Hollister.
“We’re fixated on welcoming people who come in,” Morris said. “The coffee will speak for itself.”