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Meet Tess Brown of Banyan Kitchen Cafe + Catering and Chi Chocolat Espresso Bar in Liberty Station

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tess Brown.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Jesse and I moved from NYC in 2004. We’ve been in the food and beverage and hospitality industries for quite some and time and wanted to continue that experience. He worked in a restaurant in La Jolla and I became a stay-at-home mom. But that didn’t last very long! I started catering from our apartment downtown. I was very excited with the food scene in San Diego, both with how limited it was somehow to the potential of it.

After a failed attempt with opening up own cafe in Banker’s Hill, we stumbled upon Chi Chocolat, which was then located in Little Italy and found it was up for sale! We moved in quickly and operated there for 4 years. With the increasing cost of lease, we decided to find another location.

A client of ours happened to be creating a project. An Arts District in Liberty Station. She asked if we were interested in looking at a space. I mentioned to her that we weren’t artists so how would we fit into an Arts and Culture building? I will never forget what she said: “Well you create chocolate and food. Isn’t that art?”

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like most new businesses and as I’m sure every entrepreneur would agree that the level of challenges vary. But the road is never smooth.

Our biggest challenge was financial. We didn’t have much savings and had lost money on our first venture. We didn’t have much collateral so we didn’t qualify for a typical business loan. I had to get creative and found Accion. They loaned monies to small businesses and minorities. The loan was definitely very small but it afforded me business cards, a small inventory. Enough to get started with.

Since we were new to San Diego, another challenge was getting to know all different communities within San Diego and learning its culture.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are a hybrid business. We operate:

Chi Chocolat – an espresso bar also offering artisan chocolates using fresh ingredients, natural cream with no added preservatives or stabilizers.

Banyan Kitchen Cafe – offering small plates using organic ingredients. serving breakfast and lunch. wine and beer available.

Banyan Catering – creating custom menus for social and corporate catering.


Image Credit:
Banyan Kitchen + Catering

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