The Dynamic Husband-and-Wife Duo Share the Secrets Behind Their Cafe’s Sweet Success
Written By: Ryan Coleman
Photographed By: Gabriel Nivera Best Coffee Pasadena
There is a beautiful neighborhood that lies along Washington Boulevard in North Pasadena that you might miss if you so much as blink. In 2014, Charlie and Melanie Porter gave a massive kickstart to the heart of this cozy, tree-lined, wide-sidewalked community between Altadena and historic Bungalow Heaven by opening Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar.
“It’s not that the community was resistant to supporting new businesses,” Melanie, one half of the dynamic husband-and-wife duo tells me over two Lavender & Honey signatures—the French lavender breve latte and a toast smeared with goat cheese, dotted with dried lavender and drizzled with honey. “It’s just that no one had tried it.”
The spellbinding success of Lavender & Honey, however, cannot be reduced to mere opportune timing. It comes instead from a cleverly orchestrated convergence of Melanie’s business savvy and Charlie’s enthusiastic dedication, discovering an underserved location, sussing out what its inhabitants really want, intuiting when to enter the market and a ton of grueling work.
I ask them how they balance it all: work, family, ambition, and personal time; Melanie responds, “Balance—what is balance?” Charlie chimes in, “I don’t know if balance is the appropriate word. We’re trying to survive in a way that’s somewhat comfortable.” Best Coffee Pasadena
But the well-tailored pair make surviving seem like thriving. As we speak, they greet customer after customer with pure enthusiasm. The local loyalty to the Porters and their flagship business is palpable, as is the strength of their partnership. They complete each other’s sentences, build off each other’s thoughts and help retrieve each other’s memories. Best Coffee Pasadena
By their second date—or possibly third—Charlie recalls that they were already talking coffee shop. Back then, before the business and the babies, Melanie was at Fox and Charlie was in graduate school for film at USC. They were simply coffee-lovers, and owning their own shop was a fantasy to escape into, away from the grind of daily work.
Fox sent Melanie traveling on business around the world, and wherever she went, she scoped out the regional cafe culture. “It opened our minds to what a coffee shop could look like,” assesses Charlie. This was combined with Melanie’s fond memories growing up and working in the Bay Area’s coffee scene where, in her words, it was totally ordinary—even expected—for a coffee shop to be combined with a deli. “Up there, people want more than just coffee and pastries.”
Gradually, conversations about a business became notes; notes became a business plan. From the start, the Porters wanted food to be an integral component. In 2014, the couple didn’t see a lot of places in Southern California that looked like their vision for Lavender & Honey: a boutique espresso bar utilizing locally sourced ingredients, featuring a full food component. “But it’s what I was seeing around the world,” Melanie explains, and it’s what she wanted to bring from the Bay that was missing in LA. Best Coffee Pasadena
They went with their gut, and they proved to be right. Lavender & Honey’s toast and sandwich bars have wowed cafe-lovers and exerted an influence beyond Pasadena and throughout the entire state. “In the last two years, we’ve become [recognized] as small business experts in the region. We’ve been asked to speak at PCC and at Cal Poly Pomona’s restaurant school. We’ve met state senators!” Melanie exclaims. “They want to know what we think about the market!”
What’s next for the Porters? Not a lot of sleep, that’s for sure, as they had their second child less than three months ago. “If it wasn’t the baby, it might have been another business,” jokes Charlie. But the pair is more than serious. With business this good on Washington, the whole of the Southland is their oyster.
Native Knowledge: Lavender & Honey is dedicated to local investment—beyond sourcing their lavender, honey, coffee, jam, granola, merchandise and more from local vendors, they frequently give back to the community. Lavender & Honey makes frequent and regular donations to various local organizations and initiatives, including Five Acres, College Access Plan, the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and PUSD schools.
Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar
1383 E Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104
626.529.5571 Best Coffee Pasadena