The Real Deal Los Angeles

Ch-ch-changes: Chango, one of Echo Park’s favorite coffeehouses, may be replaced

The iconic cafe is currently for sale
By Cathaleen Chen | April 14, 2016 04:00PM

1559 Echo Park Avenue (credit: Google Earth)

1559 Echo Park Avenue (credit: Google Earth)

Cue the tears of chained-to-laptop freelancers across Echo Park: Chango coffee, a neighborhood institution, soon may vanish.

Well, maybe not. But the business is currently for sale, according to listing agent Aram Pogosian of Engine Real Estate. The buyer can keep Chango as is, or rebrand it as another entity.

The price was not disclosed, but it is about three times Chango’s net operating income. The value accounts for fixtures, furniture, equipment and all other business assets included in the coffeehouse at 1559 Echo Park Avenue.

In addition to the price tag of the business, the buyer would take over the current Chango owners’ lease at $2,040 a month ($2 a square foot) for the first five years. The lease would then run $3.30 a square foot in the fifth year with an optional “fair market rate” for an additional five years.

Jenna Turner and Marc Gallucci — who operate Habitat Coffee in Glassell Park and Fix Coffee in Elysian Heights, respectively — bought Chango from its original founders four years ago. They subsequently revamped the storefront. Turner told the Eastsider that it’s time for she and Gallucci to “reap the reward of our hard work.”

Pogosian told The Real Deal that while Turner and Gallucci will sell based on the terms of the deal, they’d prefer the seller to be local.

“We will hand select whoever takes over and interview to make sure they understand what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Pogosian said. “[It’ll be] someone who understands the taste and direction the neighborhood has gone, and keep to that motif.”

The direction as of late, at least in terms of real estate, is intensifying gentrification. Chango opened more than 10 years ago, but since then the neighborhood around it has undergone drastic transformations. Older institutions like Chango’s next-door neighbor, the 50-year-old market El Batey No. 2, have closed. Newer and often fancier institutions have come into the neighborhood in recent years, including Blue Bottle.

As old businesses are driven out by escalating rents, they clear the way for potential redevelopment. The Continental Development Group recently bought an essential corner of the neighborhood — Sunset and Alvarado — to plan a retail compound called “Sunset+Mohawk.” The current businesses open on the development site will close. They include vintage tile and pottery seller Wells Tile & Antiques and Eric’s Architectural Salvage; discount store Hit Bargain; electronics shop Rewind Audio and Lucy’s laundry.

Engine Real Estate, both a brokerage and acquisition firm, has a personal stake in the livelihood of Chango’s block. It recently acquired the apartment complex across the street from the coffeehouse. The company’s portfolio includes eight buildings across East and Northeast L.A.

Podosian said Chango has already attracted a few potential buyers, including other local coffee shop operators.

“It’d be a shame to change [Chango],” he added. “There’s a lot of (reasons) to keep it as the cool local coffee shop.”