It’s a rainy morning in South Pasadena and as Chuck Jones, founder of Jones Coffee Roasters, sits on an upstairs bench in the iconic “Buster’s” coffeehouse, he is feeling both nostalgic and excited. “I started in the coffee business 25 years ago next year, and when I started, Buster’s had been in business for about five years at that time.
I was 23 years-old, so for twenty-five percent of my life there was this killer coffeehouse in South Pasadena that Monica had started, naming it after her son, Buster, and then her sisters, Collette and Renee got involved and it evolved into this institution in South Pasadena,” Jones explains as a Gold Line train passes, “it was my first exposure to a local coffeehouse.”
So when the opportunity arose to open a South Pasadena location of his eponymous coffee joint, Jones jumped at the chance and it all came together in about ten days.
“Our other two locations (South Raymond Avenue and Vroman’s, both in Pasadena) started out as blank canvases. Whenever I visit a neighborhood coffeehouse I realize it’s just a blank canvas for the neighborhood to build upon their own sense of their town. Buster’s had already done that and had created this beautiful canvas and the neighborhood had already started painting on it, like crazy and wild!”
Jones continues, “so for me to come in here, all I had to do was scrub it down, put out some tables and chairs and start serving some kick-ass coffee because it’s already set as a neighborhood place. People have already created this, and so my dream is just to continue the tradition of being a neighborhood place.”
South Pasadenans can expect to see mostly a morning schedule to start with as Jones trains and builds up the staff. They will open up with the great grab-n-go salads and sandwiches from Hope Cafe, a group offering jobs to less fortunate individuals, the Jones coffee program that is currently featured at the Raymond and Vroman’s Bookstore locations, and as time progresses, Jones plans on introducing more products and collaborations with South Pasadena chefs, a tamale day and Fosselman’s ice cream.
Turns out the Jones family goes way back with the Fosselman family and is thrilled to bring them back to South Pasadena. “We hope to have the Fosselman’s ice cream going before summertime. Chris and John Fosselman have been friends of my family for a long time, actually a couple of generations,” Jones explains, “and my Mom loves the mint chip shakes so that’s always a good day when my Mom gets a mint chip shake,” he says cracking himself up.
For the uninitiated, Jones founded Jones Coffee Roasters in 1994, first as a wholesale coffee roaster and expanding into their flagship shop on Raymond in 2000. Jones Coffee Roasters is known throughout the southland as a specialty coffee roaster with deep ties to the community it serves.
The Jones coffee philosophy is based on the tenets of the family coffee farm that they have been a part of for generations. “That coffee is big and caramel, round and sweet with a long finish and creaminess to the taste,” explains Jones, “so we count on that profile from all the coffee that we buy from around the world.” Fifty percent of the coffee comes from the family farm in Guatemala and the rest from other growers.
All coffee is then roasted at the main coffeehouse on Raymond and Jones goes on to say, “it’s roasted darker than normal, it’s what we call “90’s style” or “2.5 wave”. It’s something that is more nostalgic and has a broad appeal and it’s part of the fabric of our business.”
Finca Dos Marias (“the farm of the two Marias”) is the family farm where Jones’ great great grandmother began producing one of the highest-grade Guatemalan highland coffees in the mid-1870s. The farm is known for its commitment to the environment and to the welfare of its worker community. Much of the farm’s coffee is sold to other sustainability-minded coffee roasters around the country while keeping some of it in the family, at Jones.
Jones Coffee is already infused into South Pasadena as it is the featured coffee at Fiore Market, Cos & Pi, Gus’s Barbecue, and The Lost Parrot, and Jones himself has partnered with several local organizations from Kiwanis, Rotary, South Pasadena Preservation, SPHS Drama, The DUDES and more.
Jones’ daughter attends South Pasadena High School and while Jones grew up a Titan, he says now that he’s raising Tigers he tells his daughter, “I will always be a Tiger, until you play a Titan,” he laughs heartily and adds, “but it’s cool because what I like about going to the games when we play the Titans is that my friends from the Tiger side will always come over to say hi.” He laughs again.
“I grew up next door to this community and my parents always wanted to live in South Pasadena. I spent most of my childhood at the South Pas YMCA, always bought our Christmas trees there and now I live here, have raised my kids here and know so many people in town. I have been looking for the perfect spot for a while but felt it was going to happen when it was right. And this just feels right.”