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CRENSHAW : Gourmet Coffee Franchise Is Perk for Community

August 18, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

It is a phenomenon that took hold first in the Fairfax district, Hollywood and other points west: a gourmet coffee operation that sells 40 kinds of joe and an array of pastries.

But ensconced in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, entrepreneur Eric Wilson sees his coffee business as nothing less than a moral victory.

Wilson, 37, said he encountered resistance from several coffee- store franchisers before Michigan-based Coffee Beanery Ltd. gave him the go-ahead to open an outlet in April, 1993.

That was a year after Wilson decided to get serious about starting a business that could stimulate the local economy by catering to the well-heeled denizens of Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills and View Park.

"I was determined. I thought, 'Why should I have to drive somewhere out of the neighborhood to get a good cup of coffee?' . . . It was time to do this," he said.

Mike Robertson, director of franchising development for the Coffee Beanery, said he agreed with Wilson.

"We felt that some people's reluctance to open in L.A. was absolutely wrong," he said. "The store, and Eric, has been a very good asset to us. It's doing very well."

The Coffee Beanery operates three other outlets in the South Bay and on the Westside.

The store offers a range of flavored coffees, from Hawaiian hazelnut to German chocolate to African coffees, as well as scones, cakes, biscotti and other sweets.

"I'm so happy it's here. I was dying," said Cheryl Tyers as she ordered her usual: black coffee with a shot of Irish cream syrup. "I had to go to the marina for this. I think people are finally realizing that black people like the finer things in life too."

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