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Meet Kaldi Coffee's New Owners

The South Pas staple was purchased by Susan and Chanho Park late last year. Have you noticed any changes?

San Fernando Valley residents Susan and Chanho Park purchased from longtime owner Cindy Ginter in December 2011.

These days, the couple spends the majority of their time over on this side of town. Their daughters—Christina and Jennifer—whom you'll often see working behind the counter, live nearby in Highland Park.

Patch got together with the newish owners to find out what they like most about South Pas and how they've been changing things up at the neighborhood coffee shop.

Patch: Why did you buy Kaldi? What do you like about South Pas?  

Susan Park: Both of us, especially my husband, are devoted coffee enthusiasts. We always dreamed of owning a coffeehouse, but the timing was never right— that is, until last year when we decided we would take the plunge.

We immediately fell in love with Kaldi and the surrounding neighborhood. South Pas has a small-town feel that's so rare these days. We've lived in the San Fernando Valley for close to 30 years without getting that sense of community.

I love seeing people gather for events like the art crawl or farmer's market. On top of that, it's very green.

Patch: Tell me about your backgrounds. Do you own other coffee shops?  

SP: My husband was a banker for many years before retiring last year. I am a paralegal and work two days a week at a law office. We don't own other coffee shops, but you never know—if all goes well, Kaldi could expand in the future.

Patch: Kaldi is quite the South Pas staple. Did that make you nervous when purchasing the place?

SP: From the beginning we were sensitive to the fact that Kaldi is nothing if not a community institution. There are many long-time regulars and we wanted to make sure the transition was smooth.

Our immediate priority was on improving the quality of the coffee and customer service, which we figured would be a welcome change for everyone.

Patch: Have you changed anything/do you plan to change anything at Kaldi?  

SP: We changed our coffee bean supplier and added some new drinks and sandwiches including paninis. We also brought back Open Mic night, which had been on hiatus for awhile. More changes will come over time as we learn what our customers like.

Patch: What's you favorite menu item?  

SP: My husband has taken a liking to the Turbo Dr. Pepper, which is Dr. Pepper with a shot of espresso and a splash of vanilla syrup. I have to say I like the regular old latte best, though I never say no to a Root Beer Freeze. The lemon ginseng iced tea (SporTea) is also very refreshing.

Patch: What's the most popular menu item?  

SP: The most popular item is our house coffee, with lattes coming in at a close second. The sea salt caramel latte, a new menu item, is very popular—especially the iced version now that the weather's getting warmer.

Patch Asks: Have you been to Kaldi recently? What do you think of the changes?

Patrizzi Intergalactica June 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I'm sure they're happy to be out of the valley hellhole.
Tom Leonard June 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Me and my dog Wilson love Kaldi ( Except when there is cigar and cigarette smoke)!!!! We have met Susan, Christina, and Jennifer - they are a very nice, hard working family. Wilson particularly is fond of Jennifer. We wish them the best of luck in their new venture!!!!
Matthew Theisen June 27, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Don't knock it til you try it.
Matthew Theisen June 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Also, it is obvious that the new owners are now quite wealthy, but they were likely not always. Not everyone can afford SoPas.
Patrizzi Intergalactica June 27, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I've tried the valley.
DC June 27, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I hope they'll make it more accessible to families with children and non-smoking adults alike, by upholding the no smoking ordinance. We stopped going there years ago because of the cloud of cigarette smoke which enshrouded Kaldi's day and night.
Julie June 27, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Thanks for this article, because now I will go try Kaldi again. Like DC I stopped going because of the people constantly smoking at the tables and by the door (even the employees). It also seemed to often be dirty and the drinks were very small compared to other coffee places. However, it is such a beautiful location and building, that I hope to be able to go there now. Looking forward to trying it!
Lic June 27, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I haven't been to Kaldi's in a long time because of the attitude and so-so coffee. Sounds like both have improved. Hopefully they've stopped serving coffee in those air-pots.
Sam Burgess June 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I, too, stopped going there because of the smoke. Yesterday I noticed 2 patrons siting outside smoking cigars. Sad. It's such a nice place.
John C. Rozenberg June 28, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Will you re-open access to the restroom for your customers? JC
M. Sandecki June 28, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I was there a couple of weeks ago and someone spilled coffee on the wood floors. They used ammonia to clean it up...also they don't use milk without hormones. It would be nice if they used Alta Dena or other hormone free milk
Jones Foyer June 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM
From Yelp, comments from various users, just on the first page of comments : "But the service... Ahh... Isn't the best. Disinterested and dismissive is right." "rarely pleasant" "I could really go without the attitude of the staff there, I mean jeez talk about rude." "Spaced out staff. Well, it is SoCal...the weather's nice outside, so why the hell should I be paying attention to my barista job? " "What's not cool is the rude staff" "As similar reviews have noted, this troublesome attitude that reeks with misplaced self-importance" "If you want a welcoming atmosphere with great drinks and friendly staff - don't go here. P.S" "Staff usually surly." etc.etc. If they want this place to succeed, there's one big obvious problem they need to address.
PasadenaDan June 28, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Good luck to the new owners. I have started coming again to Kaldi for coffee and to sit and relax. The staff are friendly. The quality of the house coffee has improved and is excellent. The shop has a wonderful coffee smell, warm atmosphere, great location and the fresh made sandwiches are great.
Stevo June 28, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I've been hearing that Kaldi has improved but didn't know of the change in ownership. Now I'll be sure to try it again. The smoke isn't a bother but I would prefer that it be limited to premium hand rolled cigars.
marty c June 29, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I seldom see smokers here - they are more likely found in front of the library or across the street from Kalis.
spidra June 29, 2012 at 07:24 PM
While walking past Kaldi a week or two ago, I saw an employee clean off a sidewalk table by sweeping the litter off of it and into the street. That has got to stop. I agree with others that Kaldi has been terrible about enforcing the regulations on smoking. They're supposed to be 20 feet (I'm guessing but the distance is actually posted on the sign) from the entrance but are routinely smoking right in front, including employees. It's a great space, it's conveniently located, and I'd be likely to patronize it if the employees would stop littering and start enforcing the code on smoking. I think an Open Mic is a great addition to South Pas. I am hopeful the new owners will address Kaldi's past sins and excavate the charm beneath the tobacco smoke and attitude.
JP March 19, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I've been coming here for a decade now and will never come again. The new owners know NOTHING about the business or 'old town community'...First of all the hours changed, the WiFi is restricted regularly, and lastly no bathroom access anymore. You have to go to the library across the street. In addition very rude service by owner. I actually saw him hound his employee about the accounting he was working on at the corner of the lobby. Also, there was a young lady standing at the counter deciding what to put in her recently purchased coffee and the owner just kept staring at her to see if she was going to take something to the point that he stopped working. It was actually uncomfortable just to watch. Forget this place- it's no longer what it used to be...
Joey March 19, 2013 at 01:00 AM
I've been coming here for a decade now and will never come again. The new owners know NOTHING about the business or 'old town community'...First of all the hours changed, the WiFi is restricted regularly, and lastly no bathroom access anymore. You have to go to the library across the street. In addition very rude service by owner. I actually saw him hound his employee about the accounting he was working on at the corner of the lobby. Also, there was a young lady standing at the counter deciding what to put in her recently purchased coffee and the owner just kept staring at her to see if she was going to take something to the point that he stopped working. It was actually uncomfortable just to watch. Forget this place- it's no longer what it used to be...
Februarymoon March 29, 2013 at 07:16 AM
I love the idea of Kaldi - BUT it's not a cozy. cool atmosphere. They need better couches and tables and lamps....there just seems to be no attention to detail...and vibe. Starbucks has more of a cool vibe with the long tables and chairs and such. They also need to order from a new baker...the food isn't enticing or fresh. IT HAS GREAT POTENTIAL BUT IT REALLY NEEDS THE TOUCH of a designer or artist...it's lacking character and a VIBE! And the coffee is just okay! But as a south pas resident. i make every attempt to support our local business. it's quite hard with Charlies and the new intelligentsia in old town...both are really cool spots.

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