Caffeinated legacy

Oziel Magaña

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Oziel Magaña is an attentive shop owner. During a recent interview at Mondos Coffeehouse, he checked in with a regular who’d taken the last drip of coffee in a dispenser and thanked a couple of students on their way out the door. He gushed about his team of 14 part-time workers, seven of whom participate in a work training program through Far Northern Regional Center, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities. Magaña, who has a background as a social worker, gave himself “a major crash course” in business ownership when he purchased Mondos in 2009 with his brother, Esteban (the pair closed their former shop, Euro Cafe, to run Mondos). Now, as the brothers celebrate 10 years in business, Magaña is pursuing his master’s in business administration. He’s also dedicated to nurturing what he sees as a legacy business in Chico—Mondos was founded in 1997 by Tim and Brandee Hamor. The shop, at 995 Nord Ave., Ste. 100, is known for its cozy atmosphere and lush display of indoor plants—along with its coffee and delicious breakfast sandwiches.

How have things evolved over a decade?

We really have changed the business quite a bit. A lot of it was, we had to offer what students were looking for but still honor our locals. We had to make sure we were different from [Starbucks]. So the coffee bar was a huge part of it for us. We got a super automatic [espresso machine], so we got the speed up. We decided to mix our own sauces [like chocolate sauce]. A lot of [drinks] we actually go back and grind chocolate bars [for flavor]. The other thing was the food. We went from selling one [sandwich] a day to last Saturday [April 6], before noon, we sold 67.

What are you most proud of?

You have to be a little bit crazy to do food service. Your margins are super thin, there’s always something breaking, there’s always a competitor. I would always look at it like, I owe it to myself to have this place for individuals with disabilities to have that place where they can come to and actually be a part of a team that doesn’t just say, “You have a disability.” You’re a peer to us. You pay taxes, just like anyone else … customers get to be a little bit snarky to you. Not only do we want you here, but you’re [also] needed here.

What’s next for Mondos?

At some point—I’m not eternal—I’m not going to be here. And it’s really important for me that this continues. I really want it to be a legacy … to be there and grow … for it to continue having that identity, being a place where people can come to and they can be themselves, and be considered a part of the community. I’m glad that [the] family that we’ve grown here has been not just behind the counter but also customers. We have this little, unique group of people that are like, “We’re Mondos.”