Last summer, David Alfaro opened the Mugshot Coffeehouse in Canyon Country after signing a five-year lease. Next Wednesday, after only eight months in business, Mugshot’s doors will close for the last time.
Santa Clarita boasts the Saugus Café, which has been serving coffee and food for 131 years. It’s well known as the oldest restaurant in continuous business in Los Angeles County.
That kind of staying power is rare in any business, and practically unheard of among eateries. Alfaro’s experience is far more common.
“We put everything we had into this store,” Alfaro said. “My wife and I put our savings into it and maxed out our credit cards.”
Alfaro did many things right. He made all of Mugshot’s flavoring syrups in-house, including bourbon-infused vanilla, organic French lavender, caramel, white mocha, sweet cinnamon, and Valrhona chocolate mocha, with chocolate from the French town of Tain-l’Hermitage, near Lyon.
The food menu included breakfast burritos, several types of crepes, and a variety of salads, all at a prime location.
What went wrong over the last eight months offers a cautionary tale on the challenges of starting a small business.
While Alfaro had managed retail outlets for others, this was his first time as an owner. He signed a lease that called for him to pay $6,000 a month in rent for space that was formerly occupied by another coffee shop, It’s a Grind.
He said that the contractor who was renovating the space, in a retail center at 18727 Via Princessa at the corner of Sierra Highway, backed out on him, delaying his opening. Outdoor signs cost more than he expected, in part because the space occupies a corner of its building, so needed two signs.
Then February’s rent check either got lost or was stolen. Whatever happened to the check, it wasn’t cashed. But by the time he realized that, he’d spent some of the money on other expenses.
When he paid his March rent to Paynter Realty and Investments in Tustin, the property’s manager, it was applied to February. Late-payment penalties kicked in, adding $1,200 to the monthly tab.
The penalties and other business expenses became more than the business could support. Last week, Alfaro received a notice of eviction.
At this point, he’s trying to find buyers for the coffee-making equipment.
Alfaro says he’s unlikely to start a new business any time soon. But all is not lost. “I’ll bounce back,” he said. In the meantime, he and his wife will have more time for their 18-month-old daughter and soon-to-arrive first son, due in mid-May.
At press time, Paynter had not responded to an inquiry from The Signal about any future tenant for the space.
Alfaro recently set up an updated GoFundMe page in an effort to keep Mugshot open.