What is Twee Coffee’s origin story?
“It goes back to the time that we met. We met at another local coffee shop, Back to the Grind. [Noel] was hosting an Art Night there and I just happened to be there, drawing, and so he invited me to join his art group, and then a year later we were married. All of our dates were in coffee shops. I worked in coffee, but not anything specialty and he didn’t work in coffee, but he knew about all the specialty coffee worlds. So we met halfway there. We also both come from small business family backgrounds. When we were making our five-year plan, we were thinking where we would meet and use all of the skills that we’ve gained in life and develop our own little empire.
“We thought about doing an ice cream shop first, but we know nothing about ice cream and when we started looking it up [it includes] a lot of science, so that was not our thing. We settled on coffee because everything we do is coffee-based. I have a lot of experience in coffee shops, he has all the design skills and we had a great support system, so that’s how it all started. It took a really long time, but we’re here and we’re open.”
So, why Riverside?
“I was born and raised here. I went to Pachappa, Central and Poly, so definitely Riverside kid 100 percent. Noel grew up in the Inland Empire – Corona – but he always loved Riverside growing up. So, it just kind of happened naturally. We lived just a couple blocks from [the location] when we first were developing our business model. [The center] definitely wasn’t on our radar. We were looking more downtown, or even outside of Riverside and we just kind of stumbled on this place. It was when we kind of stepped away from [our business plan] for a little while because things just kept falling through and nobody wanted to take a chance on us because we were so young. When we got here, the owner for some reason liked us and was like ‘sure, if you have a business plan go ahead and run it.’ It just fell into place so easily, it almost was not a choice.”
What sparked your love for coffee?
“My first job was a coffee shop job at 15. I started working in a little independent, not specialty, just one of those second wave, whatever coffee shops, and I loved it. I didn’t necessarily think that was going to be my whole future, but it happened.
“Noel started drinking coffee probably in high school and then of course as a college student. You really spend all of your life in coffee shops, so he definitely fell in love. That was his journey and his experience. He had a lot of really cool friends who took him to all the coolest places. They went up to San Francisco, where there’s a lot of really great coffee out there. That’s where our honeymoon was and it was all coffee. So, coffee has a lot to do with our whole lives.”
How much of your life is intertwined with coffee?
“Everything. Even our daughter, sadly, drinks coffee, not on a regular basis, but she asks for coffee. We’ll put a drop of coffee in her milk and she’ll be like ‘coffee!’ She’s pretty cute, I’m not gonna lie. Physically, we can’t go a day without drinking coffee because it’s becoming an addiction. Every moment of our life we spend talking about our shop, which sometimes can be hard, but that’s just who we are and we love it. Sometimes our customers will be like, ‘oh, did you see what happened on the news like this thing blew up down the street from you,’ and we’ll be like, ‘Oh, no, we were so focused on what we’re doing.’ So not necessarily just with coffee, but the business, and then coffee comes along.”
Tell us about your regulars.“That’s my favorite part. One of the main things we wanted here was to be very customer-centric, like any business, but to focus on, how Noel would say, noticing each person that comes in. We just have the kindest and most beautiful customer base ever and it’s awesome to see, because it was such a huge goal of ours to create that community. You hear from chefs a lot about [how] getting to serve people food is a very intimate kind of thing. It’s like a piece of artwork that you get to give them that they get to enjoy and it also nourishes them. It’s fun with coffee because in the morning you get all those people who are like dead and you get to wake them up.”
What’s been your favorite customer moments?
“There’s just so many good moments. I remember a regular coming in that was so quiet. I knew almost nothing about him, but he was really friendly. Then one day he came in and was like, ‘I’m going to propose to my girlfriend today.’
“We had another one of our regular couples come in, kind of the same story, where he was planning on proposing to her and told us, ‘This is gonna be our first stop on that day because this is our favorite coffee shop.’ Those are really special moments and I definitely can relate to them.
“There’s also a lot of couples who tell us they want to open a coffee shop one day. It’s so fun to be like ‘just do it, this is how you do it, let us know if you need help, it’s the best thing ever.’ We’ve gotten to encourage a lot of young people to start their small businesses or to continue with them.”
Is there a specific atmosphere or experience you try to create within the shop?
“Noel and I both, like so many people, have social anxiety. Although we may not seem like it because we have to be sociable. I’ve definitely grown out of it, but I can tell you countless times where I’ve driven to a coffee shop and not been able to go in because I was so nervous. There’s often been this air of pretentious and snobby, which I get in a certain sense because it’s a craft, it’s a trade, it’s a beautiful art, but it is also coffee. So, we want to be as not that as possible. Humble, not pretentious, welcoming to everybody who wants to drink coffee.”
“Twee means super cute and quaint. We went through a lot of different names, trying to figure out a name. There are so many coffee shops, so it’s really hard to find a name that’s not taken. We knew we wanted it to be cute and quaint, so we literally ended up googling synonyms for the word cute, and twee’s a synonym for the word cute, so it worked out. It’s actually considered a British slang word and some of my family is actually from Britain, so we’re thinking we can kind of play off that. We’ve had British people come in here, and I’ve asked if they’ve heard of this word and they’re like, ‘no, this is not a word. It just means cute’. We’re just going with a vibe that’s cute, very welcoming and warm.”
What’s the story behind the clothing racks in the store?
“It was totally by chance. We had thought about doing a marketplace type of wall, where we sourced from lots of local small businesses we do a lot of pop-ups. We call them our morning markets where we have a lot of different local small businesses come and sell. We have soaps and obviously the thrift shop, some craft stuff, there’s this girl that does Mental Health Awareness and all sorts of different things. We love small businesses and wanted to provide a space like that. So far, [the clothing rack] is what we’ve started on and we have a lot of plans. Lydia, the girl that does all the thrifting, started her business via Instagram, so she thrifts and resells. She was one of our first pop-ups and we just loved her and her style. We just loved how it looked and were like, ‘what would you think about maybe doing this semi permanently’ and it’s become permanent. She provided the rack for us to hang up her clothes. She studies our customer base to see what would look good in here and what our customers would like, she’s awesome.”
Is there anything else you want Riversiders to know?
“I feel like we get to say what we want to say to customers all the time. We’re lucky that we get to be here all the time talking to them. We’ve tried to tell them all the time how much we love them and appreciate them. We’re just going to continue to try our hardest to be there for this community and serve them.
“Thank you. We’re so grateful we’re grateful to Riverside for being a place that does allow somebody. It’s hard in Riverside. It’s hard to be a small business like a physical brick-and-mortar business, but once you make it, people are very supportive. There’s a lot of resources so we’re grateful to be in the city of Riverside. We’re grateful to the center, the Arlington Arcade, and of course all of our customers and our family and our friends and all of that and you guys for voting us Riverside’s 10 best.”