Hope stepping again from day-to-day café operations | Los Gatan

A message in a window along Main Street has been turning heads in recent days, as locals wondered whether it spells change for Los Gatos’ quaint downtown.

The sign announced an opening for a general manager position at Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co., and shared an update about the company’s jazz-loving hippie-themed-party-throwing founder Teri Hope.

“Fantastic opportunity to manage our business,” it reads. “Don’t worry Teri is not leaving, but she is going part-time.”

Over the past couple years, Town planners have sought to revitalize the downtown core by easing some restrictions on corporate ownership to help fill vacant shops and spur the economy in the wake of the pandemic.

So, we decided to contact Hope directly to get the low-down on what’s happening with the business she started back in 1982.

Turns out, she’s sold off a majority stake in her company to the London-based man who founded Caffè Nero, which has more than a thousand coffee houses around the world.

But she says there’s more of a local connection than you might think.

“I sold part of the company to my friend Gerry Ford,” she said, referring to the man who launched the Caffè Nero brand back in 1997. “He was actually born and raised in the Los Gatos area.”

And while he runs Caffè Nero, LGCRC was not sold to that company, but to Ford personally. He’s since also purchased Centonove, the Italian restaurant next door.

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NOW HIRING – Hope says they want to find someone local to manage the coffee shop. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Building the Business

Back in the 1980s, Hope helped Dan Pulcrano, who would go on to launch the Los Gatan, organize and promote a downtown business association.

Over the years Hope grew LGCRC to a small chain with locations in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Palo Alto. She was edged out of the Palo Alto Shopping Center after 18 years, she recalled, as Starbucks expanded—even though she had one of best-performing stores in the mall.

“They just wouldn’t renew my lease,” she said, adding having a good landlord in Los Gatos was key to her longevity here—though she acknowledges Town Hall played a part, too. “I would say that, yes, a lot of the small shops in the downtown historic neighborhood of Los Gatos had some protection from the corporate chains for a number of years.”

The new Council has been attempting to encourage larger entities to set up shop in town, without completely opening the floodgates to corporate influence.

“That somewhat of a gentle protection has gone away,” Hope reflected. “Some people deny that it ever existed. From my perspective I think that the Town government has been cautious and careful over the course of time to not allow our downtown to turn so heavily commercial that it doesn’t have this quaint neighborly vibe.”

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EUROPEAN FLAIR – Coffee magnate Ford now owns two neighboring businesses on Main Street in Los Gatos. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Retirement Planning

Hope, who is now 72, says she was looking for the right option for transitioning to retirement, and says she picked a buyer on her terms.

“It was important to me…to find someone who shared my passion for coffee and the place that Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company holds for the community,” she said, noting Ford attended Stanford University. “He wants to sustain it in its style. He doesn’t want to rebrand it or turn it into something else.”

THE BARISTA – Adrian Rivera-Aguilar. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

She says the terms—and dollar amount—of the deal are covered by a privacy agreement.

“He paid what I consider a premium for the opportunity to purchase the company,” she said, of her arrangement with Ford.

Hope says Starbucks once offered her several million dollars for just the Los Gatos, and says Pete’s Coffee also expressed interest in snapping up the café.

She says Ford never tried to pitch her on selling to Caffè Nero, despite its recent expansion into the United States.

The transfer of ownership actually occurred back on July 12, 2019, said Hope, who only recently decided it was time to step back from the day-to-day grind.

Adrian Rivera-Aguilar, a 27-year-old barista, says he isn’t thrilled his boss won’t be around the store quite as much anymore.

“It’s sad, because she’s awesome,” he said. “That’s the thing. She’s just a wonderful, kindhearted person…She cares about the people who work here. And while she’s doing that, she’s still trying to make it a really good experience for the customers.”

But Hope says she’s agreed to remain somewhat involved with LGCRC.

And now, the hunt is on for the right person to fill her shoes.

“We would like to recruit someone local,” Hope said. “We’re not doing a national search, because we want someone who is grounded in the community.”

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