For Laura Newman and Jim Tauber, the couple who opened Lefty’s Coffee Collective in Los Olivos in January, aligning their moral values with their business model is essential. To put sustainability in practice, both environmental and social, they created an inclusive community space for residents that doesn’t involve drinking wine or spending lots of money.
“We really saw that the community needed it,” explains Newman, who came to Los Olivos with Tauber in 2010 from Los Angeles, where they ran a successful counseling practice together. “Los Olivos is a lovely town, and obviously very tourist-friendly, but it felt like the locals were sort of left behind.”
On the surface, Lefty’s is a smartly designed coffee shop with ample indoor/outdoor seating, charging stations, and super-fast Wi-Fi that’s filled with locals sipping their morning coffee, tourists grabbing a bite before a day of tasting, and remote workers who don’t have their own offices. But there’s more happening here.
“Coffee is a pretty political crop — it’s a low-wage crop,” said Newman, who wasn’t satisfied with the other coffee options in town. “There were no good organic, sustainable, and fair-trade options for coffee, and we try to source all of that for our shop.”
But the driving force for Lefty’s was less about coffee, explained Tauber, and more about walking the talk. “We wanted to put our beliefs into action and prove that you could live in a capitalist world and still treat people equally and pay them fairly,” he explained. “That is how we structure the internal operations at Lefty’s.”
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Their talk is walked by providing Lefty’s employees with full health benefits, sick days, and paid vacations, in addition to a profit-sharing program that divides profits equally between all staff at the end of the year. “No one person gets more than the other, including us,” said Tauber. Newman calls that the “manifestation of our activism,” explaining, “We believe the way we treat our employees is as important as what we are serving.”
Coffee isn’t this couple’s only pursuit. They also manage their nearby Honeybear Orchard & Vineyard, producing their own wines and selling cabernet franc and chenin blanc to such winemakers as Gretchen Voelcker of Luna Hart Wines and Mike Roth of Lo-Fi. A licensed contractor, Newman designed and helped build Lefty’s with her best friend and former business partner, a welder named Creo Bettencourt. And she’s also active in nonprofits, co-founding and serving on the boards of the LGBTQ organizations Brave Trails and Los Olivos Pride, and organizing this year’s S.Y.V. Pride Weekend on June 25 and 26.
So which Lefty’s beverage is the power couple’s favorite to help them tackle so many projects? “The Dirty Chai — our organic specially blended chai, organic oat milk steamed super-hot, and then add ¼ cup of our Malawi house brew, plus a dash of house-made simple syrup,” said Newman. “It’s the perfect drink.”
2896 San Marcos Ave., Los Olivos; (805) 691-9623; leftyscoffeeco.com
This article was underwritten in part by the Mickey Flacks Journalism Fund for Social Justice, a proud, innovative supporter of local news. To make a contribution go to sbcan.org/journalism_fund.