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Bright hues and spiced coffee at Holy Grounds

Holy Grounds Coffee & Tea celebrated its second birthday on July 23. Owner Steve Boland took to Facebook to thank all those who have sipped coffee in the Holy Grounds courtyard. "I want to extend a most sincere and heartfelt thank you to all that have contributed to our success, however that is measured!" Boland posted on Facebook. "Every purchase has helped our sustainability as your/our neighborhood coffee shop."

We visited the coffee shop after its opening in 2012. Read more about Holy Grounds below.


The stretch of tire shops and furniture warehouses in El Sereno is an unlikely spot for an independent coffee shop offering free books, yoga and papier-mâché classes. But Holy Grounds Coffee & Tea has developed a growing reputation with diverse residents from Alhambra to Boyle Heights to Highland Park. On any given day, construction workers, musicians from nearby artists' colonies, and police officers can be seen sharing the same space and sipping on cafe de olla.

Holy Grounds employees Maria Aguilar (left) and Julio Torres (right) with owner Steve Boland (center) | Photo from FacebookThis welcoming atmosphere is just the sort of environment that owner Steve Boland strives to foster. "It's been really exciting getting to meet the different people of this area," he said. "Even in these last two months, we've received so much support from this community, and I feel like we're doing a really good thing here."

Boland, who is originally from Connecticut, lives right above Holy Grounds and is the driving force behind the café's committment to social change. He and many of his employees have struggled to maintain social sector jobs with the economic downturn — a few, including Boland, are former social workers who were laid off; another is a graduate student pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Cal State Long Beach. One of Boland's rules of the café is that social workers and cops get free coffee. "They're very hard working people, and we just want to show our support," he said.

Feeling holy: Customers like to pose in front this decorationEmployees maintain that everyone involved at Holy Grounds aspires in some way to stay active within their communities. "Steve's got a really eclectic group of people here, and he gives us all a chance to do something," said Tony Rodriguez, who also plays saxophone in a local band called Mexico68. He has a series of photographs taken during his travels through Bogotá, Colombia, which are printed on postcards displayed for sale near the front counter.

Jose Torres comes regularly to play his guitar.

Not just the customers are eclecitc. Boland's collection of furniture and decor are a hodgepodge of items salvaged or gathered from donations and his own expeditions, including walks down the neighboring train tracks where he discovered discarded tiles. The outdoor garden is filled with plants and mismatched patio sets, centered around a mosaic fountain. On a recent Saturday morning, the café hosted a papier-mâché class and a yoga class. On Wednesday nights, there is "Candelini" yoga — Holy Grounds' candlelit version of Kundalini yoga. There's also a huge selection of books kept right out front as part of the café's free book exchange program, which they hope will promote literacy throughout the community.

A Saturday morning papier mache class.

Boland takes pride in the local interactions: “People from the neighborhood come in here all the time, and they'll hear someone say, ‘I live on Dorchester’ and then they'll go, ‘Oh, I live on Dorchester too!’ So many of my neighbors have gotten to meet each other that way, and it’s a great thing when that occurs. That’s when the space really works.”

Holy Grounds Coffee & Tea is located at 5371 Alhambra Ave., Los Angeles, CA. It is open Monday – Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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