A beat up and rugged looking Volkswagen Beetle sat parked on the side of the road in Tulum, Mexico.
Surrounded by lush greenery and the saltine air of the Caribbean Sea, the scent of fresh coffee drifted into nostrils inspiring the story of “Sunny” and Farm Cup Coffee in West Hollywood.
The coffee culture in parts of Latin America such as southern Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America is unlike anywhere in the world. Since the early 1900’s, coffee has been the main export to the U.S. for regions in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia. Which is why Emerson Haro and Tony Yuan instilled the meaning behind Farm Cup Coffee to influence people to travel for the art of coffee.
For many in Tulum, the visual of this VW Beetle was as ordinary as could be, but for Haro and Yuan it was the most picturesque element of their trip to the southern point of Mexico. It also served as the foundational catalyst for purchasing a modded European Citreon Truck that endured a flurry of processes in order to successfully import it to the United States.
It wasn’t in Mexico where they met “Sunny;” The Beetle wasn’t the only vehicle to conjure a sense of new purpose; A vibrant yellow Citreon Type-H van sitting at the peak of the Scottish Castle wasn’t letting off the smell of diesel, but the aromatic smell of scolding water dripping over coffee grounds. Because Cold-War politics and tariffs from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration still held, it was no small feet to successfully import “Sunny” to the United States.
But it had to be so.
Haro and Yuan were able to import the Citreon Type-H van over to the United States and embarked on a coffee-selling journey all through out Los Angeles. The foreign make and model of their truck was a big enough lure to attract the gaze of many, but the quality of coffee was unmatched as meticulous attention was given to crafting the menu. Armed with the inspiration of culture, “Sunny” and Farm Cup Coffee found themselves in Venice Beach one day when they gained a new follower on social.
I saw the Farm Cup Coffee Truck in Venice and took a picture of it and started following them on Instagram,” Host of Startup to Storefront Diego Ventures said. I thought to myself ‘that is a group of entrepreneurs that really cares and is fully committed to their company. Not everybody brings over an old [European] truck, remodels it, and creates a business out of it.’Diego Ventures
The way things were going could have been suitable for the ordinary entrepreneur, but then the pandemic happened in March of 2020.
The Need for Innovation
Emerson and Tony’s initiative ultimately got them noticed by Diego who then invited the couple onto his team’s podcast, Startup to Storefront. The emerging entrepreneurial podcast began its journey in 2018 unearthing the “untold challenges of scaling a business.” The podcast shares these stories through the candor of top entrepreneurs from across the nation that get invited to share their stories.
After joining the podcast it was believed to only be up from there, but then the decision to potentially sell “Sunny” became very real when pandemic-induced challenges left them with little recourse. Much to Farm Cup Coffee’s dismay, the pandemic would eventually disrupt ambition and plummet the upward growth that Emerson and Tony projected. And that’s when Startup to Storefront gave them a lift.
The retail sector, much like multifamily, took a massive blow once government restrictions began influencing public behavior. It could have been easier to sell the one-of-a-kind vehicle in a market that indulges in car culture such as LA, but the vision behind Farm Cup Coffee would have vaporized with the sale.
I [Diego] immediately said, ‘that’s like Nike selling the swoosh.Diego Ventures
Due to its growth, the Startup to Storefront team was looking for a permanent studio to host its podcast from. The location couldn’t have been better as they decided on West Hollywood to be the new home for the show, although much bigger plans would be set in motion after hearing that “Sunny” is struggling. For the savvy, innovative ideas are always on the back-burner. And that’s why on West Hollywood Blvd. and Genesee Ave. you will notice a vibrant yellow truck inside a retail storefront—the same truck that was parked by the Scottish Castle.
But, before we get there, you first need to understand the story of 7748 Santa Monica Blvd. (Now Farm Cup Coffee).
The 2,247 square foot property is located in the heart of West Hollywood which was part of a simultaneous 1031-exchange in which the previous owner was looking for more cash flow. Centennial Advisers, through the diligence of its top broker, Edan-Shalom Gross, was able to market the space and eventually found a buyer in Diego. He was the perfect buyer because he and his team have a history of taking innovative ideas from inception to execution, to grand-opening.
Edan certainly knows the area and owners super well which is always a trait I look for in brokers that I work with,” Diego said. “It helps when ultimately trying to acquire neighboring properties as well.
It was right around this time when Diego got the call from Emerson and Tony that they were considering selling their Citreon Type-H Van. All the while 7748 Santa Monica Blvd. fell into escrow. Immediately it became apparent that the building could not only serve as a permanent fixture for their podcast, but also for Sunny.
After a quick 30-day closing, the previous owner of the building found himself in a newer multifamily complex with quadruple the units, 21% more cash-flow, and twice the allowable rent increases. Similarly, the “Startup to Storefront” team now had a new endeavor, and that was restoring some of the luster on their newly-purchased 100-year-old retail property. It definitely wasn’t easy to get the truck inside of the storefront, and even when they finally towed her in, you can bet a lot of retrofitting and modifying had to take place, again, in order to fixate utilities from the building into the truck.
As the team put it, “It’s Always Sunny in West Hollywood.”
With the full support of the city, what was once a radical idea, became the newest sensation on the block. Sunny became so much more than a food truck inside a store, or a branding and marketing idea, and it was certainly beyond a simple real estate development.
We reached out to the Mayor and city council members in Weho to see if they would get behind this radical idea and sure enough, they LOVED it! At a high level, our real estate development mission is enrichment over disruption.
Emerson and Tony are a gay couple entering a very LGBTQ-friendly community with a superb product. They are both minority business-owners and Diego worked to the bone to make sure that not only their ideals persist through the new partnership, but that they would also seamlessly fit in with everyone else on the crew in order to bolster their mission.
This is much deeper than real estate development. This is literally startup to storefront, this is literally bringing people to a community that helps them flower just as much as they help Farm Cup flower.
The next time you find yourself craving a pick-me-up or are sitting back enjoying in some literature, stop by 7748 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood and ask for “The Explorer” or “The Poet.” You won’t regret it.