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Meet Annie Choi of Found Coffee in Eagle Rock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Choi.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a born and raised native Angeleno, I thought that Hollywood would be the perfect place to do what I love to tell stories. A career in movies and television, therefore, made “perfect” sense.

After a short 18 months of working on popular shows, (i.e. Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Real World) I was able to attain the position of Additional Video Editor on one of the most well-revered shows in television — Project Runway. But, I was unhappy. Leaving a career is almost always a hard decision and it was especially difficult for me. This is where coffee entered the picture.

Even while I was working in the entertainment industry, I wanted to open a coffee shop in Los Angeles. A coffee shop is a place filled with stories: the baristas’ and customers’ personal life stories, the spirit of the neighborhood the coffee shop is located in and even down to the coffee’s journey into the customer’s hands itself. And in the lonely place that Los Angeles can sometimes be, stories amongst the community is essential.

My background also lends itself to my reasons for opening up a small business. Currently, my parents own and operate an independent acupuncture clinic. My father owned a multitude of small businesses throughout his own career (i.e. mobile grocery truck, denim clothing factory, used car dealership). It is no coincidence that I inherited my parents’ entrepreneurial spirit.

My coffee background started with Demitasse Coffee Roasters, a premiere and well-respected specialty coffee shop, as the former full-time General Manager at their Santa Monica location. I started at the company in March 2013, and within a mere four months, I was promoted from Intern to Barista to Director of Social Media to Manager.

I started my first coffee shop, Found Coffee, in the Eagle Rock neighborhood in Los Angeles. Found opened its doors in February 2015. Found Coffee is a coffee shop where people are able to find themselves and find community — just as I have in my own life and in LA.

Where I’m at today: I’ve discovered that my passion is creating spaces that gather people from diverse backgrounds.

FrankieLucy Bakeshop is a collaborative project between the owners of Found Coffee and Crème Caramel LA. Kristine de la Cruz and Sean Gilleland are the co-owners and custard purveyors at Crème Caramel LA. We’ve brought our love of coffee and custard together into a powerhouse of awesome treats and fantastic customer service. We opened the doors to FrankieLucy in December 2016. Our shop is named after our pups — Frankie is Annie’s dog and Lucy is Kristine’s dog.

A little background on my business partners: Crème Caramel LA got its start in farmers’ markets in East Hollywood from Silverlake FM to Atwater Village FM to Echo Park FM to Barnsdall FM and 11 other farmers’ market locations in Los Angeles. Since opening the Sherman Oaks brick and mortar in 2013, (the only Valley mention on Eater LA’s pastry map!), they’ve missed their customers in the Eastside and have been looking forward to bringing their Filipino “Leche Flan” custard back in a slew of delicious treats: crème caramel, custard pies, bread pudding, budinos and more!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The struggle (of small biz ownership) is real. I feel like every small business owner goes through a hazing of sorts. I felt like something broke in Found every other day for the first year — whether it was a critical piece of coffee brewing equipment to my air conditioning unit to my own spirit (just kidding, sort of).

Also in my second year of business, my business got broken into twice within six months of each other. That was tough. But it also showed me the power of community. Our amazing regulars and customers rallied together to show us so much love and support.

The struggles are plentiful but the rewards are just as plentiful.

Found Coffee – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Almost every multi-roaster specialty coffee shop in Los Angeles currently carries coffees from elsewhere in the United States or Canada. Popular roasters are Portland’s Heart Coffee Roasters or Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian. Found & FrankieLucy are set apart as companies that focus on seeking wonderful coffee from within California’s very borders.

In Found specifically, I’ve successfully infused California in the details within its walls — from displaying the work of local California artists in the interior to carrying coffee from California roasters; I’ve stuck with this vision for the most part. Because I am California born-and-raised, my love for my home state is heavily reflected within the walls of Found. I hope that Found clientele will foster an appreciation for and bring continued support to the vendors that come from their very community.

Just like Found Coffee is meant to be a gathering place for Angelenos to enjoy coffee, tea, pastries, and each other’s company, FrankieLucy serves a similar purpose but with an emphasis on Asian American-inspired custards and desserts.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is taking a day off from your small business.

Success is being able to let go of the reigns and trust and empower your staff.

Success is gathering a community of disparate peoples and helping them feel at home.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Janet Kim and Abel Jaye Manansala

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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