Arts & Life, Features

Where are they now: Ground Hideout Coffee

Ground Hideout Coffee, owned and run by the Bonilla family, was a newly opened business in Long Beach when the Daily Forty-Niner first reported on them in February of 2020. 

Coffee is an integral part of their family history, first cultivated in Honduras on coffee plantations that the Bonilla siblings used to spend their days on. Their passion for coffee traveled with them as they moved to the United States with their parents, and fifteen years later, the coffee bean brewed up a business for them. 

That was in 2019. 

Six months later, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for all of California in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

warning signs of COVID-19 regulations
Signs to inform customers on Covid-19 line the front windows of Ground Hideout Coffee. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

Suddenly, owner and Long Beach State student Alex Bonilla had to rethink their entire business. 

The first adjustment came in the form of a walk-up counter, built by Alex Bonilla Sr. so that customers could order their coffee to go without having to step inside. Outside the shop, tables were added for customers to sit. The changes, although unanticipated, proved to work well for them.

Outdoor area of the Ground Hideout Coffee
Ground Hideout Coffee’s front entrance was turned into a coffee window, built by Alex Bonilla Sr., due to the pandemic. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

“People still want coffee, people still want a sweet treat from us,” Bonilla said. “Everybody was starting to work from home and everybody’s going crazy so any excuse to get out their apartment was [to] go get coffee.”

A cup of coffee was certainly a treat, but Bonilla saw that it was also an opportunity for many of their customers to have some human interaction. Regardless of the nature of their conversation, Bonilla said that his family was happy to take part in making someone’s day a bit better. 

As the storefronts around Ground Hideout Coffee closed, the Bonilla family were able to stave off any serious financial losses that came with the pandemic due to the fact that they had no employees outside of their family, and that the coffee shop has not closed once. 

“You just gotta keep going,” Bonilla said. “We’re not going to just sit there and just be worrying about ‘Oh, what if this happens.’ Just do the changes you have to and just figure it out.”

The outdoor order area of the Ground Hideout Coffee
Ground Hideout Coffee has not closed once since the start of the pandemic. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

It sounds impressive, but that mentality is something their family has always carried. 

It’s partly how they carried on through the protests that hit Long Beach in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. 

Bonilla Sr. purchased plywood that day he first heard about the protests, and with the help of neighbors in their community, they boarded up the shop. 

The Bonillas waited in bated breaths for news of their storefronts’ plunder, even going as far as to driving by the shop in the middle of the protest just to see the sight themselves. 

Aside from some minor graffiti on their boards, Ground Hideout Coffee was untouched.

For them, that meant that serving coffee could continue. In those days, Ground Hideout Coffee served coffee out of their back door, only closing their shop early to comply with the citywide curfew times.  

A patron sits at a table outside of Ground Hideout Coffee
Customers practice social distancing as they wait around Ground Hideout Coffee for their orders. Paris Barraza/ Daily Forty-Niner

“It seemed surreal to everybody with what was going on, but we were giving them a sense of peace,” Bonilla said. 

Ground Hideout Coffee will be coming up on their first anniversary on Sept. 21. 

Bonilla is finishing up his last semester at CSULB as an aerospace engineer major alongside his sister. When they first opened, it was a balancing act of a full-time course-load and managing a new business. It may not have gotten easier since then, but the family knows that life will return to normal eventually.

“We haven’t even hit a year when all of this stuff happened,” Bonilla said. “We’re still alive. We’re still going to sell and people love our stuff.”

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