It was in the night hours before college final exams that I begin drinking coffee. At the time, I had no idea that I would go on to own my own coffee shop. That idea didn’t cross my mind until early 2010, when I began gaining interest in specialty coffee and searching shops across San Antonio for better taste. My wife, Monika, and I had always talked about one day opening our own business, so the idea of a coffee shop really appealed to me.
In 2011, I realized just how little I knew about coffee when I attended the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual conference in Houston. It was there, after attending classes and sessions, that I realized it was definitely a community I wanted to be part of.
Even with my newfound enthusiasm, starting a business brought challenges. Just getting our doors open was the biggest struggle. I felt like we had a solid business plan that some loan officers actually complimented us on, but without real world experience and massive amounts of money, many lenders were hesitant to help a career journalist who had a vision of a coffee shop that served a lot more than just coffee.
My wife and I persevered with our dream of opening up a new café in an area that had old charm and new energy. Along with coffee, we also wanted to serve beer and wine. We wanted customers to have a choice of beverage, especially in the evening. We loved the vision of people seated around, enjoying a glass of wine or their favorite beer. Eventually, our dream became a reality in downtown San Antonio.
One constant struggle was seeing things in the short-term while also trying to pursue our long-term vision. In our first year of business, keeping an eye on finances has been almost a daily battle for me, but it keeps me focused. I can see what is and isn’t working and can look ahead to where I want to be, so I know what I need to do to try to get there. We’ve tried some things that have worked really well and tried some things that failed miserably. But I’ve learned from it all.
From where I stand, my dream is that others in the same boat that I was once in will do the same when trying to make their dreams become reality. I believe that hard work, passion, and the desire to keep on learning is what has helped us to succeed, and because of this, I strongly urge others to pursue their ambitions with a strong drive, enthusiasm, and energy.
Finding something to keep your energy vibrant every day is of the essence. The inspiration for the name Rosella originated from my two daughters names put together – Olivia Rose and Ella Sofia. This little-known fact actually serves as extra motivation to make sure that the business is a success. I felt that if I named it after them, I’d work a lot harder to make sure it succeeds.
After the name came the location. My wife and I had a very specific look we wanted for our dream shop.
We knew we wanted to be in an area that was starting to see some revitalization. We looked at several locations that were in or near downtown but that also happened to be in the right place at the right time with our location. I had always envisioned our shop to be in an old building, preferably a warehouse. There aren’t a lot of locations that fit those criteria, but this space was perfect: an old brick warehouse with 20-foot wooden ceilings just south of the Pearl complex and within the burgeoning Broadway corridor. It was more than I could have ever asked for.
Today, college students in the same position as I once was come through the doors of Rosella for a good time, a great place to study, and even better coffee. I also see many downtown employees making Rosella their go-to place to conduct morning coffee meetings with coworkers or clients. In the evenings, whenever I see a couple laughing while enjoying a bottle of wine or friends gathered around with a cold beer in their hand, I can’t help but smile. My vision of creating a home away from home for San Antonians young and old who are looking for a place to unwind and have a great latte has started to come true.
When people ask me what advice I would give others who want to open a coffee shop or any business they keep dear to their heart, I have always answered: Do your homework. Have patience. Don’t give up. Never stop learning. Never stop working. Be passionate. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help.
I’m happy that, at least so far, my vision has actually worked. I’m proud that I set a goal, did the work, and made it happen. Beyond that, I’m humbled that people choose us for whatever reason they do.
*Featured/top image: Charles Gonzalez makes a cup of coffee at Rosella. Photo by Brandy Rae Perez for Rosella Coffee Company.