PHOTOS AND WORDS BY RAYNEUTRON
It was a relaxed Saturday morning for me—slept ’til I felt like getting up, walked my nervous dog through the neighborhood and made a breakfast run with my wife (TYPICAL‘s editor-in-chief). Throughout the last year many conversations with her (as was the case that morning) have centered around the overlap of what I’d call “artist culture” and that g-word, gentrification. Upon leaving our favorite Highland Park, breakfast burrito dig we saw “FREE COFFEE.” Seemed odd, but two minutes later we were talking to Mexico-born, Alan and Alex Morales, owners of Civil Coffee.
Where are you from originally?
We were born in a small town of Chihuahua, Mexico. Just a couple years later we moved to sunny Los Angeles and it’s been sweet home ever since.
Who/what inspired you to open a specialty coffee shop?
There’s a few places that had a strong effect on us; Intelligentsia, in Old Town, Pasadena, introduced us to what really great coffee could be in an inspiring and grand, beautiful space. This is where our interest was sparked! here is also the renown multi-roaster coffee bar in Alberta, Barista, in Portland where drinks are always on point and staff is well composed and hospitality minded. This place will pretty much blow your mind.
Besides genius promo, what motivated you guys to give away free coffee every Saturday this summer?
We were inspired by our early days in coffee at Handsome (the space is now a Blue Bottle). During the early stages, even before construction started, our pal Tyler Wells decided to put up a coffee bar even in the havoc of working on jumpstarting the enterprise. Working there we got to see first hand how a community began to build over coffee. Folks from all walks of life, from construction workers, to locals, to curious pedestrians and more suddenly began dropping in. Then they’d come back again and again. And all these folks that might have not met other wise became a community. Why? Because of coffee. Its pretty incredible and now we are seeing it first hand. We’re hoping to build more than a coffee bar, we’d like to build community.
“We know and understand what it’s like to grow up Latino in Los Angeles.”
Often times, when a coffee shop is opening in a minority neighborhood it means gentrification. Has your being Latino business owners eased tension here in Northeast LA?
would not say it has eased the way. What we are able to do though is have a conversation with folks of a similar background in English, Spanish or Spanglish. And that’s important. We know and understand what it’s like to grow up Latino in Los Angeles. Once we start the conversation and people learn more of where we came from it changes their perspective. Sometimes we get a sense of pride from other folks that give us a tip of that hat. It’s humbling and we’re grateful.
How has being brothers affected the way you run your business?
e have a lot of respect, trust and love for each other. hat goes a long way. We feel a huge sense of responsibility and commitment to deliver because we understand that it takes team work. We’re in it for the long run so even when the going got tough we didn’t give up but pushed and encouraged each other. It’s a good dynamic where we balance each other out in many ways. It’s a blessing.
While shooting your pre-open, Outkast’s “Aquemini” was pumping throughout the shop. Between the two of you, who’s Andre 3000 and who’s Big Boi?
Love this question! Disclaimer—dynamic duo Outkast is on another hemisphere of cool! But… if we had to dial it down it would be… Andre 3000: Alex—lively, creative gregarious, spontaneous. Big Boi: Alan—reserved, composed, organized, resonant.
If you could only drink one caffeinated beverage every day for the rest of your life what would it be?
Drum roll… We both agree, a simple cup of filter black coffee. It is exactly what you need in the morning. A timeless and classic cup of hope and comfort.