Storefront Report: Pioneering Echo Park coffee house changes ownership

Apr 24, 2012

The Downbeat Cafe opened more than a decade ago in an Alvarado Street storefront as the first of many coffeehouses that popped up across Echo Park.  As new competitors opened across the neighborhood, The Downbeat  continued to brew coffee but began to look a bit tattered and started closing on Sundays.  But in February, new owners,  brothers Cesar and Sergio Diaz, took over the cafe and are in the process of changing the menu – expect more organic items, baked goods from Homeboy Bakery and coffees from different roasters – and updating the interior with new lighting, counters and paint.

“We are going to bring back  more of the character  … that had gone away,” said Cesar Diaz.

This is the first cafe that Cesar Diaz, a former public and community affairs worker,  and Sergio Diaz, a teacher, have owned. But the brothers have longed to work together in the restaurant business as their father and uncle did years ago. “We had it in our blood,” Cesar Diaz of the restaurant business.

The Diaz brothers had checked into opening a coffee house in Boyle Heights or Highland Park before they heard The Downbeat was for sale in Echo Park, which Cesar Diaz had become familiar with when he worked for the Dodgers a few years ago.

In addition to introducing Homeboy Baked goods, Cesar Diaz, who runs the cafe full-time, plans to serve coffee  roasted by several companies, including Caffé Calabria from San Diego’s North Park neighborhood.

Echo Park’s coffee house scene has undergone a shake up this year, with new owners taking over Chango on Echo Park Avenue and the Coffee Pot on Sunset Boulevard.

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