It’s hard to believe that two years have gone by since the paper covering was torn off of the windows revealing the expansive space that is Primo Passo Coffee Co. Not long after tacking a small nondescript note on the exterior of the shop, letting the neighborhood know that they were open, a line formed from the register that went out the door and around the corner. The owners reflect on that day and their reliance on the notion ‘If you build it they will come.’ The community came.
This coming Monday the 10th of March marks the two year anniversary of Primo Passo. In celebration of their birthday, from noon to 2pm Primo will be offering all of their pour over coffees for $2 - including an exclusive and complex coffee coffee from one of Aida Batlle’s famed farms El Salvador. The featured celebratory coffee is a Kilimanjaro Kenya process that retails near $50 a pound. To give you a sense of the magnitude of this coffee, according to an article in the New Yorker, “Aida Batlle is a fifth-generation coffee farmer and a first-generation coffee celebrity. On the steep hillsides of the Santa Ana Volcano, in western El Salvador, she produces beans that trade on the extreme end of the coffee market. These beans have made Batlle an object of obsession among coffee connoisseurs and professionals.” Which makes it feel as though Primo Passo’s birthday is a bit like our birthday, too.
Primo Passo means “first step” in Italian. The first step of the day is a good cup of coffee. The first step toward realizing Primo Passo Coffee Co happened nearly 15 years ago when Stuart and Kara met in a coffee shop. He would ride his bike to the Coffee Bean on the corner of Barrington and San Vicente where she would be hanging out.
Sitting with Stewart and Kara and talking about their shop, Primo Passo, is like talking to proud parents about their child. They had an architect help them realize the structure and functionality of the space, but the layout and design is their own. In fact, when they were conceiving of their ideal shop layout Stewart and Kara each sketched out their own version and upon comparing their sketches, it turned out they had practically drawn the same thing. From there, they hand selected every detail of the space: the countertops, the slight elevation of the bar area, the lighting and even the mysterious bearded man. It all comes together beautifully.
Neither Stewart or Kara are baristas so they don’t work on bar but their dream for their shop was to share the coffee they love with their community. They both have other careers in marketing, advertising and publishing. That said, Primo is not so much a side project as a manifestation of them pursing the things they are passionate about. The shop is their opportunity to exercise their creativity freely in the direction of what truly excites them: the pursuit of the best cup of coffee possible.
As we sipped on our coffees, we talked a lot about the neighborhood. They shared with me how setting up a business and becoming a fixture on Montana Avenue has really given them the chance to get to know the community. Stewart and Kara love when people get excited about their coffee and they also enjoy experiencing coffee as the “great equalizer” - bringing together a cast of characters that might not otherwise connect: firemen, actors, techies, former Starbucks goers, new moms, families and hipsters, to name a few.
So, tomorrow on Primo Passo’s 2nd Birthday, cheers to Stuart and Kara for contributing and sharing their passion with Santa Monica. Thank you for providing some of the best coffee equipment and freshly roasted beans for your talented and friendly baristas to work with and giving your community a beautiful space to connect in. Here's to many more years in the neighborhood!