“Good morning! Thank you for coming in!” Mo shouts from the far end of Kindness & Mischief as a new visitor carefully enters.
“This is gorgeous,” exclaims the customer as they walk into the brand new specialty coffee shop officially opening May 7th in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
It’s 8:45 in the morning, and for the next two hours, the shop, still in its soft-open stage, will welcome more than twenty visitors, most with similar opinions. “You clearly spent a lot of attention on detail,” one gentleman compliments. Some are already regulars, neighboring shop owners or film crew workers from the shoot across the street who have memorized the menu and are known by name to Monique Maravilla (or Mo, as she prefers) and her associates Jon and Allie. Each time the door opens, all three workers look up, smile, and greet the customer warmly.
It hasn’t been the easiest 2 years and four months. “When we say we built it from the ground up, we tore it down to the ground and then we literally built everything.” Mo reached out to an architect friend to design the space with her, and hired the architect’s father as the contractor. “I felt like I had an A-Team,” she laughs. “They were right there for me.” In between working as a camera operator for the LA Opera, Mo learned how to weld and work construction, renovating the shop. She created a business plan and researched other cafes for ideas. And she had to manage the finances.
“I used up all my life savings, and then we started the Kickstarter.” They met their funding goal, but it wasn’t enough. “The delays are what caused it. It’s rent every month and you’re not making any profit, so it’s all just losses.” She wanted to guarantee wages for her employees after opening, and so she approached VEDC. “The VEDC team has been so supportive and amazing. I’m super lucky to have a village around me to help me through it.” With the extra push, Mo was able to finish the construction and immediately hired Ali and John to help staff the shop.
On April 29th, Kindness & Mischief soft-opened for a week to work out the kinks and put the finishing touches on the bar and front. The interior is spacious and friendly with an exposed brick wall and painted steel beams of an old warehouse. Bright colors, large windows, and handmade furniture add to the beauty of the space. It’s inviting, which is what Mo has wanted all along.
“The reason I was so adamant about this space and this neighborhood is because I love this community so much I wanted to be a part of it. We moved to Glassell Park from the Philippines when I was three, so we’re awesome here.”
Highland Park has a long list of thriving local businesses and popular movies and shows being filmed all year. A steampunk-themed bowling alley recently opened near the shop, and within 10 minutes of each other, owners of a popsicle shop and an elixir-brewery walked in to greet Mo and order coffee. Still, Highland Park suffers from increased homelessness and raised rents pushing many poorer residents out of their homes and businesses. “We got a lot of positivity about the shop,” she says, “but also a lot of backlash. People view a coffee shop like it’s taking over the neighborhood.” It’s one of the reasons she opened her shop on Figueroa Street, just blocks away from the recreation center.
“I didn’t want to open my shop in a place where it wouldn’t make an impact. Not to say I want to change it, but I definitely want to be a contributor to it.” Mo has already started to promote local businesses and products, refusing to sell beans made in San Francisco or Portland. “We’re never going to promote our city and our culture here if we keep buying into others.”
She’s a wealth of knowledge for any aspiring small business owner in Los Angeles. “My friends have jokingly said ‘If you don’t want to do it anymore, you can do consulting work for opening businesses,’” she smiles. She’s worked with the city for over two years, meeting codes and communicating with inspectors to have her space approved. She’s very motivated to help small business owners reach their goals. “I would say the first thing is to fine-tune your intention for the space. Make sure you want this so hard, because there will be moments you’ll want to give up.”
Thankfully, Mo refused to give up, and can welcome new friends and family to Kindness & Mischief starting Saturday, May 7th at 5537 N Figueroa Street in Highland Park, LA. VEDC is so excited to be a part of her success and the joy she brings to everyone she meets.
Oh, and in case you were wondering:
“The name comes from a quote from my favorite poet Mary Oliver. She’s amazing. And the world needs a whole lot more kindness. I feel like that will save everybody. And dude, you gotta have some fun! Mischief doesn’t have to be evil.”