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Meet Gary Chau and Mark Wain of Caffe Luxxe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Chau and Mark Wain.

Best friends since school, Mark Wain and Gary Chau quit their corporate jobs in 2006 to start their dream of working together and owning a local neighborhood business. Through their shared passion for European sensibilities, their experiences with Caffe culture in Italy always stayed with them. The artisan approach to coffee preparation, the value of community, and the ability for a caffe to serve as both a way to get ready for the day and a place to unwind for the evening. They both dreamed of bringing these experiences back with them to Los Angeles and creating a neighborhood caffe to share with their community.

Established to bring a unique luxury to coffee and culinary experience, Caffe Luxxe was the first Caffe in Los Angeles to champion a move towards handcrafted artisanal espresso and brewed coffee. Our dedication to serving the best, individually crafted beverages has helped LA drinkers discover what fine coffees can taste like, earning us numerous accolades by customers and journalists alike. Handcrafting every single drink is our daily passion, and we strive to make each drink better than the last.

Our commitment to serving great coffee begins thousands of miles away at the farms where the beans are grown, where we strive for full transparency of sustainable practices. Mark makes yearly trips across the world, building relationships with farmers and specialty importers, and sourcing the finest coffee beans. Our relationships ensure that farmers are paid fair prices, helping to secure not only better coffees for us but better lives for farm workers and their families. Great coffees and relationships begin at the farm, and we’re proud of the friendships we’ve made. The result of these efforts has created highly rated and respected coffees – all 90+ points, since we began roasting.

Our philosophy on roasting guides our hands, as we roast coffee to focus on the classic characteristic flavors unique to each country to bring out the depth and complexity they have to offer. Bearing in mind that there is no right or wrong for the consideration towards light vs. dark roast, it all depends on the coffee and your own taste. However, our roasting style tends to lean towards medium to light where we find it draws out the subtle nuances of aroma and flavor at its best.

Our Blends are meticulously crafted, beginning with consideration for the aromas, flavors, and experiences we want to celebrate to create the ultimate balance. Our Single Origin offerings highlight the terroir which makes that coffee unique. All are crafted in small batches, allowing us to finely tune the profile for each roast.

Every day we combine our travels, histories, and expertise to bring the best experiences to our caffe friends and family. From the coffees we source, roast, and brew, to our curated selection of pastries and culinary offerings, every piece of Caffe Luxxe has been created to share with you what Mark and Gary felt and dreamed about while traveling and living in Europe all those years ago.

Has it been a smooth road?
Although this probably sounds a little cliche (but true), the key lesson is that we have found that everything requires hard work, focus, meticulous attention to detail, and dedication. There are no short cuts to success in our experience.

We remember when we first opened on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, a person popped in, took a quick look around, and claimed, “Oh, another coffee shop? I’ll give you three months!” And that encounter was more or less the start of our journey!

There were several key bumps which were really about understanding how to manage growth in a healthy way by putting into place the people, systems, and processes that would help us scale and grow from 1 to 3 to 6 caffes (and soon to be seven). Bear in mind that as a small neighborhood business, we’re not funded by a large corporation with deep pockets so all of those needs can’t happen overnight nor can you realistically afford such an infrastructure immediately just because you have the need.

As well, both Mark and I are different people in how we manage and communicate, and we also have very different skill sets. We’ve divided our work responsibilities based on our specializations, and coincidentally it’s what we both enjoy doing anyway, So like in any relationship, you encounter those moments where both people may have a strong opinion, but we go back to our fundamentals and allow the person who is the designated responsible person for that project or category of business to make the final decision. And at the end of the day, we decided Mark would be the President and I would be the Creative Director.

Mark and I have learned and discovered a lot of about each other, and we’re still learning every day! For probably many of the situations we’ve found ourselves in, we’d suspect that most partners would have quit a long time ago. However, our relationship started as best friends first, and that is the reason why we are together in the first place. Without the friendship, we wouldn’t have a business, but we’d also never sacrifice our friendship over the business.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Caffe Luxxe – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
On the outset, people see our business as a coffee shop making handcrafted drinks and selling delicious pastries. So for many people, their initial attraction is more from a culinary interest in looking for something that tastes great.

Then as the person starts to visit more often, they start to see a different aspect of Caffe Luxxe, which is the social side of a neighborhood place to meet family and friends, and where the barista becomes your friend and knows your name and drink as you step inside the door.

We purposely don’t have wifi, which in this day and age, some people think is ridiculous. We’re often asked how can a Caffe not have wifi? We’re always connected to technology anyway, especially with our mobile phones, so our goal is to try and help people disconnect even for a short moment in time and return to being a human being again; we’re social creatures by nature, and we want to facilitate human interactions that happen in person face to face vs. through their computer screens – It’s analog vs. digital, and our vote is for analog! What you eventually see is a large gathering of people who begin to enjoy the disconnect, and the Caffe is lively and filled with positive energy created by human beings who are socializing. We love this!

So we don’t actually see our business as just a coffee shop, but really a place for socializing and enjoying time together with family and friends.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Los Angeles as a city is filled with positive energy that won’t take no for an answer. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, this is magical because you get to work with others who share the same positive drive and can-do attitude.

You see this example in the entertainment industry. How many actors are there going out on casting calls every day? How many rejections do they experience? And what do most of them do after the rejection? They brush themselves off, and start making more phone calls!

We’ve found that LA is quite a trendsetting and trend following city which sometimes makes business challenging . . . people are always looking for what’s the latest and in some cases prefer things from elsewhere as it then feels more exotic and coveted. So we’ve found it challenging to be recognized and enjoyed as one of the few truly homegrown coffee businesses, where fresh and local actually makes a difference in many ways. I connect it to a sports example: How many NFL teams have existed in San Francisco vs. Los Angeles in the last 20 years? I find cities like San Francisco to have a protective shield and support around its own local brands, whereas, in a trendy city like Los Angeles, there’s far greater competition because the city is very open and seeks out newness all the time; this is very apparent in the restaurant business which is extremely fickle – One day you’re boom and the next day you’re bust, and the next aspiring restauranteur takes over your space to give it a shot.

Contact Info:

  • Address: SANTA MONICA
    925 Montana Avenue
    Santa Monica, CA 90403 BRENTWOOD COUNTRY MART
    225 26th Street
    Santa Monica, CA 90402 BRENTWOOD DOWNTOWN
    11640 San Vicente Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90049 PACIFIC PALISADES
    15200 Sunset Blvd.
    Pacific Palisades, CA 90272MALIBU
    22333 Pacific Coast Highway
    Malibu, CA 90265
  • Website: www.caffeluxxe.com
  • Phone: (310) 394-2222
  • Email: info@caffeluxxe.com
  • Instagram: @caffeluxxe
  • Facebook: caffeluxxe
  • Twitter: @caffeluxxe


Image Credit:

Alicia Cho

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