Koreatown, not necessarily known for its destination indie coffee shops — although Alchemist and Bia Coffee are pretty great — is getting a new one, this time in an abandoned gas station from the 1940s. It's called Full Service Coffee Co., and it's set to open this fall.
Because one of the most beloved aspects of L.A. is its midcentury architecture, it's nice that the bones of the building will remain in the new design. The former Whittier’s Texaco Station is at the northern end of Koreatown, at Beverly and Hobart boulevards. Built in 1941, it fueled drivers in L.A. until 1965, when it was turned into a used-car dealership. Although its complete history in recent decades is not filled in, it had been abandoned for a while.
"My partners commute through that street, so they’ve seen the building for years,” says Edoardo Chavarin, one of three co-owners of Full Service Coffee Co. “It was fenced off and not in use, and a lot of people have said that it would be an ideal place for a food or coffee concept. So when my business partner saw the sign going up, we decided to call immediately and put together a pitch.”
Chavarin is a brand consultant who’s on the creative side of things, and his partners, John Juniper and Jeff Solorio, co-own an eyewear company together. This is their first food and beverage project.
"I don’t think we would have been interested in opening a coffee shop — it’s the iconic location that really inspired us," Chavarin says.
While the menu, coffee sourcing and barista team are still being determined, the building change of use was one of the most complicated parts of the process so far, Chavarin says. Although the gas pumps were removed when the gas station was converted to a used-car dealership, serving food at the location meant making sure that all residual chemicals were cleared from the site.
That process was completed in the '80s, according to Chavarin, but finding proof was almost impossible. “We spent months literally looking for these documents and this paperwork, making visits to the fire department and police station," he says. Accessibility was another issue — buildings in the 1940s didn’t have the same ADA standards as they do today. “Now you need ramps, now you need big enough restrooms and things like that,” Chavarin explains. "But we’re trying to do as less as possible to keep [the building] in the most original form. Our partners come from a design world and the aesthetics are gorgeous."
There are a few other repurposed gas stations in the city: Afters Ice Cream in Pasadena and Hollywood's gleaming white Starbucks on Highland and Willoughby, which is actually a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument. Though the Koreatown gas station applied for this same designation, it was turned down in 2011 — probably making for an easier construction process for its new owners.
Despite the compelling aesthetics of Full Service Coffee Co., Chavarin acknowledges that a beautiful building and historic site do not a successful business make.
"Los Angeles attracts a lot of really good people in [any] category, so it’s definitely a challenge if you want to do a good job," he says. "We’re 60 or 90 days out, and we’re already sparking a conversation, which is great. But it’s also a push because that means you have to deliver."
Full Service Coffee Co. is set to open in October or November.
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4450 W. Beverly Blvd., Koreatown; fullservicecoffeeco.com.