Cafe Jumping Bean: The trend setter
Pilsen is a community that has gone through many phases, and the Pilsen of today is one that could be summarized in three words: Café Jumping Bean.
As many of the older restaurants of the community have served as pillars for the neighborhood’s Mexican identity, Café Jumping Bean has been the most influential establishment in regards to the diversity that we see today.
I had the pleasure of chatting with the owner of Café Jumping Bean, Eleazar Delgado, to learn about his motivation to open up the first café in Pilsen (at least of those that are currently in business), his business model and his Mexican-American identity.
Not surprisingly, all three things interconnected to create what is today the most popular café in Pilsen.
The café was opened in 1994 with $8,000 of start-up capital. Modestly, Eleazar pointed out, “Half of that was credit cards.” However, modesty isn’t his only trait. He is very straightforward in his words and in his business model. Eleazar remembers the conversations he would have with people in the early '90s when sharing his idea of opening up a café in Pilsen. He said most people told him he was crazy.
This is where, together with his well-thought-out business plan, his Mexican-American identity came into play. By deciding for himself that he loves Mexican food, but enjoys a variety of other things, he had a “if we build it, they will come” perspective on it.
Truth is, they did, but not right away.
Eleazar remembers that in the fourth year his accountant called him ecstatically and said “hey, guess what? – you’re making money.” Eleazar went through two partners in those first few years, one in the first year and the other in the years after. He said, “My first partner thought that by the end of the first year we would be making a profit, but we weren’t.” Eleazar decided that he would keep on going because he knew that by perfecting his business model – he would eventually see positive results.
So I asked him to summarize his business model:
Ambiance – Café Jumping Bean was the first in Pilsen to have rotating art exhibits on their walls. Every month a different artist gets to showcase their work. It makes it a lively place to enjoy some food and or a conversation with someone. Just as we were talking about the café’s layout, people were popping in and out just to get coffee. In fact, I saw six people in a span of two minutes do just that. I mentioned to him that I really enjoyed the place, but what about this coffee that people are making a pit stop for?
Offer Great Coffee – It took him years to refine his three bean blend. Eleazar’s parents have been some of his biggest supporters but also some of his biggest critics. His earlier versions of coffee weren’t accepted by them, so that pushed him to make it better. I had the pleasure of watching him make a cappuccino, mocha and a latte. I personally haven’t gone into the realm of coffee varieties outside of my morning cup of Joe, but they have some really good stuff.
Offer Great Service – Eleazar’s ability to retain his employees is amazing. There are people that have been serving coffee there for more than five years – full time! People get to see a friendly and consistent face, everyday. Eleazar says that he prefers to hire people with no experience. He says, “I want to teach them my way of doing this.” It’s obvious that he knows what he’s doing and it has paid dividends.
The Jumping Bean is currently in contention to be considered an Inspirational Small Business. NBC and American Express have a search for a business that serves as an inspiration for surviving in tough times. Please check this out to vote on behalf of the Café Jumping Bean.
Posted in Local Businesses