ENCINITAS — When Joanne Hockson heard a rumor that Philz Coffee was opening Encinitas, she said she had flashbacks to her college days at Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, Calif., drinking mint mojitos — one of the shop’s signature iced-coffee blends.
Several months later, Hockson and her friend Grace Siekbert stood in line with hundreds of other locals on a Friday afternoon, waiting to get a free cup of coffee at the soft opening of the first San Diego location of the Bay Area-based coffee house that has a cult following across the country.
“There’s just so much to love about this place,” Hockson said. “The whole experience is different from any other coffee shop.”
This was music to Jacob Jaber, CEO and son of Philz founder, Phil Jaber, who attended the Feb. 3 opening. According to Jaber, this is how his father built the business: one cup, one store and one community at a time.
“We are so thankful and fortunate for the support of this fantastic community,” Jacob said, in between trying to convert a non-coffee drinker into a believer with a mint mojito. “We look at it as a privilege to serve the best we can.”
Philz has built its following with a different approach to making coffee. The menu is devoid of the cappuccinos, mochas and other drinks and venti, grande and other sizes you would see at your typical coffee houses.
Instead, the baristas craft single cups of coffee made from over 20 different bean blends. Each guest is paired at the counter with a barista, who will craft their single cup, give them a taste test and tweak the brew to their liking, a type of caffeinated alchemy.
This is how the founder, Phil Jaber, a Palestinian immigrant who founded the chain in San Francisco, perfected his first blend, a company spokeswoman said.
The story goes that Phil Jaber ran a corner store in the Mission District and got the idea to create the perfect cup of coffee. Seven years later, he accomplished it with a blend he called Tesora, the chain’s most popular blend.
In 2002, he converted the storefront into the first Philz coffee chain. In recent years, the company has expanded to the East Coast and into Southern California in Los Angeles and Orange County, but decided to move into San Diego County in 2015.
The company’s real estate department scouted a location, the Black Sheep knitting supply store on Coast Highway 101, that it believed would be a prime location.
“Jacob and Phil came down and toured with the real estate people, and they met the owners of Black Sheep, and the connection was instant,” said Rachel Redondo, who manages the Encinitas location.
Redondo said she was quietly confident that the opening would be a success, but when she saw the queue of people outside of the store well before the opening, she was overwhelmed.
“I started crying in the morning when I was talking to the team,” Redondo said. “Gratitude beyond words.”
And for patrons like Siekbert and Hockson, the coffee cup was worth the wait in line.
“It is exactly as I remembered it,” Siekbert said.