2201 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026 – Eastside Eat/ Echo Park
(photo courtesy from: http://www.backyardbite.com)
I’m excited to bring the first inspiration story for 2013; she is Erin, owner of Hedgehog Café!
Owner/Manager: Erin West
Book. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace (because it was the most influential when I was a teenager in the 90s, but there are one million “favorite books”!)
Color – yellow
Season – Seattle summer (but it’s 17 non-consecutive days long)
MAOI: Where were you and what were you doing when the idea for the cafe which is now Hedgehog blossomed in your mind?
EW: The Hedgehog idea kind of grew organically as I decided I was ready to leave Seattle after a dozen years, was ready to do my own business after the partnership I had co-owning a bar didn’t work out, I visited LA and fell unexpectedly in love with it, and this amazing location popped up on my radar.
MAOI: There are a lot of cute nicknacks around the cafe, were those collected over time or purchased for the coffee shop?
EW: Both! Some of this stuff has been in my house for years, and little dudes keep getting added as I go along.
MAOI: How long did it take for Hedgehog to go from concept to actual coffee shop? What was your biggest obstacle you/the coffee shop faced?
EW: It happened a lot faster than I expected! I looked at the old shop here for the first time in the beginning of January, and I was running it by March. The timing was difficult – I left Seattle in a hurry weeks before I thought I would, had the keys in hand months before I thought I would, and did the bulk of the renovation with my friends and family over a few days in May. Doing it mostly alone (with help from my family and friends on specific projects) with just the ideas in my head, the decade of food service and management experience, and the willpower to be here every single day is the hardest part!
MAOI: Who designed your adorable Hedgehog mascot? Why a Hedgehog?
EW: My friend David Choe http://www.flickr.com/people/invisiblehour/ designed it for me as part of a school project (and because he is nice!). He also tattooed my rad Corningware chestpeice, because he’s good at a lot of kinds of visual art 🙂 It’s a Hedgehog because I wanted to name this place after my favorite Incredible String Band song, but my friends all told me “The Hedgehog’s Song” was a ridiculous name for a cafe.
MAOI: Have to ask, what is your spirit animal and why?
EW: The Swedish Fish, but why is a secret between me and the fish.
MAOI [6×3]: What is the process for developing your menu? Who do you get your awesome teas from? Is the bread made with the tears of gods?
1)I had help making my menu come to full bloom from Chef Scott Zwiezen of Elf. He wanted to help out a neighbor and get to flex his sandwich muscles! His experience lined up magically with my shop, and he helped fill in gaps in my knowledge of how to run a business kitchen. My neighbors are all amaaaaazing peeps.
2)Groundwork coffee – also very nice peeps. A good local coffee roaster, and all the coffee and tea is organic!
3) It is made by the groovy dudes at Bread Lounge, but I know exactly what you mean!
MAOI: Biggest Pet Peeve? Biggest misconception you think people have about coffee shop owners?
EW: At the risk of sounding like a cheeseball, I have to say I love my clientele. The things I have always hated in food service barely happen here, and I like, actually ENJOY making special orders for people and making their tummies full and happy. Occasionally we’ll get some weird entitled type, but the exception really proves the rule! I think the only misconception I’ve come across is that being my own boss means that I must love every moment of every day and get to do whatever I want, which has its limits of truth. It’s MOSTLY true, but 7 days a week months at a time is hard to keep peppy! I can still only be the sweet and gentle barista who doesn’t make all the swears and wacky dark jokes I usually would so many hours a week.
MAOI: What inspires you?
EW: Farmer’s markets, new foods, cook books, books about food philosophy and ethics, watching my friends cook, butter, the seasons, yoga, my artist buddies, 70s hippie cult leaders, stick and poke parties, travel, action movies, this poem http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15814, this book http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780809132232-0 this song http://youtu.be/BdIOIWaQivc.
MAOI: Best show you have ever been too?
EW: I knew nothing about Rufus Wainwright before I saw him at Bumbershoot in 2001, but he blew me away. It’s like he was born to perform! I want to seem as much in my natural element in the things I do!
MAOI: Best advice to give other entrepreneurs?
EW: It’s like parenting – it’s never the perfect time, you’ll never feel like you have it down, you’ll always screw something up, you can’t leave it alone for more than a few hours at a time, and it will wake you up in the middle of the night. But it’s pretty freaking great.Go for it.
Sun breaking through morning clouds, a big cup of tea or coffee to warm up cold hands; Hedgehog is the quintessential cozy café especially for those who love vintage décor. Sprinkled with character, rich in warm inviting colors on the wall; the wooden counter and pastry case encourage the relaxed atmosphere of home for a Sunday morning brunch or Saturday afternoon cram fest. The conversations of budding businesses finalizing their plans, or friends getting together for the first time in months linger like delicate thought bubbles in the air. Rarely have I encountered the obnoxious bombardment of entitled egomaniacs (IMHO*) barking in their phone or sadly a friend. This coffee shop has local hotspot written all over it and it hasn’t even been around that long! Void of pretention, they serve up delicious vegan/veggie dishes and fantastic coffee house beverages (almond milk an option). It’s no surprise this perfect eastside treasure was designed by a Seattle *native*, if anyone knows coffee houses it’s those North Westerns’ (girls**].