Like many other businesses in today’s grim economic climate,
Priscilla’s Gourmet Coffee, Tea & Gifts has lost some of its client
But co-owners Shannon and Mark Hartman aren’t too worried because,
unlike other struggling businesses, the coffee shop’s biggest problem
is its popularity.
“Customers tell us all the time that they decided not to come in
because we’re so busy,” Shannon Hartman said.
The 33-year-old shop, strategically located on the western border
of Toluca Lake and Media District West, caters to area residents as
well as employees of the entertainment industry.
The store sells 75 varieties of coffee beans -- five of which are
brewed daily -- along with 32 loose-leaf and several boxed teas.
Along with typical coffee shop fare such as croissants, muffins and
cookies, Priscilla’s features 10 flavors of gelato as well as
sandwiches and salads made locally by Taste Buds Catering.
Shannon Hartman said the goal of Priscilla’s is to provide strong
customer relations. That, she believes, is something larger chain
stores can’t offer.
“As for [large chains such as] Starbucks, more power to them,”
Mark Hartman said. “But in a big pond, we don’t mind being the little
Shannon Hartman was first inspired by a favorite coffee shop she
frequented in England while studying abroad. In 1988, she and Mark
bought Priscilla’s -- named after the school teacher who founded it
-- and, in 1993, moved it a few blocks east on Riverside Drive to its
current location next to the Falcon Theatre.
But despite its proximity to the heart of Media District West, the
Hartmans remain unaffected by celebrities or industry stature.
“We treat everyone the same, which is kind of strange in this
town,” Mark Hartman said. “But I think a lot of people appreciate
Toluca Lake resident Ray Baumann, who frequents the shop, said
Shannon Hartman has ingeniously created an inviting environment.
“I like Priscilla’s because I feel comfortable here and know
everyone else that comes here,” he said.
Baumann, who once worked in the entertainment industry, said the
place has a reputation as a hangout for aspiring actors hoping to get
“discovered” by an agent, producer or studio executive.
The Hartmans said the reputation exists because of the shop’s
high-profile clientele, but wannabes makes up a tiny fraction of the
“On any given day, someone famous can show up,” he said.