Today we’d like to introduce you to Janice Harmony Pak.
Janice, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Well, in 2005 my brother passed away unexpectedly. He was only 19. It was a very difficult time, and my mom ended up closing her restaurant-which had only been open for about a year. We talked about possibly opening a small cafe or restaurant again, but didn’t take it too seriously- mostly because we didn’t have the means to do it after all that we went through. I moved to Seoul after college, and one day got a phone call from my mom pretty much saying, “ I have a good feeling about a space for the cafe we always talked about, will you move back to LA to help me open it?” So, in 2013, Pencil was created…and I’ve been sharpening it little by little everyday since. Haha!
Has it been a smooth road?
Bumpiest ride of my life thus far.
I believe anytime you’re starting something from nothing, there are going to be many unexpected obstacles and roadblocks. We took a really big risk & there have been lots of sacrifices. Running a small business with family is especially challenging , but I’ve learned a great deal.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Pencil story. Tell us more about the business.
Pencil is a community-oriented sandwich shop & café that serves the Pasadena community. We’re located in front of PCC and near Caltech making us student-friendly. We are known for our specialty sandwiches ( like our spicy chicken with gochujang) and healthy smoothies & salad options. The location we are in is flooded with conglomerate fast-food chains, so we’re proud to offer unique and healthy items that are truly made by the hands of loving & caring people. Pencil is in the memory of my brother- so we keep some of his favorite childhood books-like Calvin & Hobbes on the back counter along with having his art works decorate the walls. The space is humble and meant to feel welcoming to all.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up I was always very imaginative and adventurous… bit of a tomboy, I loved playing outdoors and riding my bike everywhere and coming home with scraped elbows & knees from running around with my friends. I loved storytelling, playing make-believe, but also I was quite shy. I ended up falling in love with theatre in high school and begged my mom to let me do a study abroad program in England when I was 16. I went on to study at CalArts because I wanted to be an artist. I always wanted to tell stories, and to reveal the truth within yourself, and to bring it out in others’ too.
- Less than $10
- Address: 12 Harkness Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106
- Website: www.pencilcafe.com
- Phone: 626.793.0072
- Email: Janice@pencilcafe.com
Image Credit: @cherngzhi