Oziel Magaña

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Oziel Magaña is no ordinary coffee-shop owner, though he does own a coffee shop, Euro Café, along with brother Estéban (a “silent parter” who lives in Arizona). A native of Chico, Magaña left just long enough to get his college degree from UC Davis and swiftly returned to the city he loves. He’s now a single father—he calls his daughter, Keikilani (pictured with him), his business partner—and although he no longer works as a social worker, he couldn’t keep away from his passion for long. Euro Café opened about two years ago in La Dolce Piazza, and in July of this year, Magaña formed a partnership with Far Northern Regional Center, his old employer, to offer jobs to people with disabilities.

How did you get into the restaurant business?

The place came up for sale. I’m a social worker—that’s my background—but my family does have a strong business background. My brother Estéban and I purchased it. I loved my job, I loved doing social work, but I wanted something a little more challenging.

So you’ve integrated your social-work background into your restaurant?

I’m really proud of that. Just having a café, people say, “You’re an entrepreneur.” But honestly, I’m just a coffee-shop owner. And there was something lacking there. In the social-work realm, you’re never bored. There’s always something going on. In my time working with people with developmental disabilities, I noticed a huge lack [of opportunity]—ever since I was working at the ARC, which is a great program—for people in between needing services and not needing services. I thought it would be a great idea to have a place where we respect them and treat them like they’re anyone else on staff.

So, Far Northern sends you workers?

We have a contract with them, so some of it is grant-funded. We currently have six workers, and there’s a wait-list. We’re looking to open up after New Year’s to get more individuals. There’s the business world and the social-work world and there’s a way to meld them. It’s important to be fiscally sound. I’m proud that we’re offering a service and using the coffee shop sales to keep this program up and running.

What’s the reaction from the public been?

We’re kind of like this well-kept secret. I kind of like that not everyone knows that we’re a social-work program. People come here for the food—and a lot of people don’t know. Our guys have disabilities, but they’re doing great work and nobody knows. To me, I like that because it’s true equality. We don’t put it out there to tell people to come because we’re a social work program.