Meet Maxine Zepeda, owner of Ryan Bros. Coffee City Heights, located at 4465 University Avenue. While the Ryan Bros. name may be well known throughout San Diego, this City Heights coffee shop has a unique story, a strong partnership with local non-profit, Worthy, and a mission grounded in supporting and giving back to the community.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your connection to City Heights, and how long have you been a part of this community?
My name is Maxine Zepeda, and I am from Ensenada, Baja California. I have been in the United States for five years from which I lived the most time in Barrio Logan. That is where I fell in love with the coffee business. I was working at Ryan Bros. at the time. When I decided to open my own coffee shop, the brothers supported me and told me that if I wanted to open my own licensed Ryan Bros., they would help me. I was looking for locations for about eight months when Ricky Wu, a commercial realtor, connected me with Sterling (founder of City Heights Coffee Shop). She told me that she was looking for someone to take over the coffee shop, so the program could grow and expand. I was impressed with the work she was doing with youth because I was planning to support students with special needs. My husband, Bryant, is a special ed teacher in a high school, and we wanted to give real job experience and training to his students. We decided to partner and help run what is now called Worthy to support at risk youth from City Heights. The more time we spent in City Heights, the more I fell in love with their people and the community.
Tell us about your business and how it serves the local community.
We partner with Worthy (previously known as City Height Coffee Shop) to support youth to get paid internships in our coffee shop to get real life work experience. The program teaches them how to eventually open their own business, finances, and many other life skills. Also, we have a program in which customers pay in advance for a “pending coffee” that once a week we deliver around the city to people in need.
What do you find most rewarding about running your business?
I love to know that through my business I am able to help so many people.
What challenges have you encountered in your business, and how have you overcome them?
At first, people in the community thought that we were a big company taking over a small business, when in reality, I am a small business myself partnering with a program that needed to expand. Although we carry the Ryan Bros. name, we are just a licensed member, and I invested everything I had and more to be able to start. Now that the community has come and talked to me, they are getting to know me and understand that this is a small business trying to start.
How has your business been managing over these past several months? Have you made any changes to your business as a result of COVID-19?
I was not able to afford employees, so I have been running the coffee shop with the help of my husband. Also, we did the mandated business changes, and we changed the hours because night business became very slow.
What advice or words of wisdom would you provide to aspiring City Heights business owners or managers?
City Heights is a wonderful city full of life which is only growing.
What do you love about City Heights? What do you envision for the future of the community?
City Heights’ heart and soul is its coming together of many cultures. What I dream in the future of City Heights is for all these cultures to be seen and embraced in every corner.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I believe that the key to keep City Heights alive in heart and soul is to embrace and support all the cultures that makes this city so incredibly wonderful.
Visit Ryan Bros. Coffee City Heights at 4465 University Avenue, open Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Saturday 7:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., and Sunday 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.