WATSONVILLE—Twin sisters Jennifer DeVault and Erika Conrad made their dreams a reality earlier this year when they bought Cafe Ella from founder and previous owner Ella King.
Both women, who graduated from Aptos High School in 1998, have had more than twenty years of experience in the food industry. DeVault worked everywhere from Walnut Cafe in Santa Cruz to the Red Apple Cafe in Aptos, often taking management positions. Conrad was a bartender at the Catalyst Nightclub in Santa Cruz for 13 years.
But owning their own cafe had always been the sisters’ biggest dream.
“This is truly what we’ve always wanted to do,” DeVault said. “We wanted to work together and be our own bosses.“
DeVault and Conrad were searching for business opportunities when they came across Cafe Ella, located at 734 East Lake Ave., Suite 1 for sale online.
“It popped up, and we started doing our research right away,” DeVault said. “We visited the cafe and loved it immediately—it was so cute. It was perfect.”
The sisters had both been living in Watsonville for about ten years and were eager to find a work location close to home.
“For years we were commuting all the way to Santa Cruz,” DeVault said. “It was rough. And we also really wanted to be a part of this community—to have this be our home base.”
DeVault said that buying and running a business has definitely been a learning process.
“It’s so different than just working, or managing,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into it… so many permits to get approved.”
But the sisters agreed that it was all worth it.
“We are so excited to be here,” Conrad said. “Getting to know the customers has been great. Everyone is easy-going and has really embraced us being here.”
Cafe Ella has garnered quite the following—with residents and employees of nearby businesses flocking to the shop every day for breakfast, lunch and their extensive espresso menu. The cafe has also continued its catering and delivery service, covering parts of San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties.
The menu at Cafe Ella has pretty much stayed the same, DeVault explained, because it’s a good menu.
“People come back to Cafe Ella for those paninis, for those fresh juices,” DeVault said. “Why change things?”
DeVault’s favorite item on the menu is the “Messy Pastrami,” a panini made with avocado, mushrooms, caramelized onions. Conrad prefers the Brie and Blackened Ham Croissant.
Cafe Ella will continue to display local art on its walls, changing artists every six months or so. They are planning to be involved in more county-wide events—including The Dinner Market at Kelly’s Bakery on Aug. 10, which will feature food by Cafe Ella and other local eateries, wineries and breweries, live music, a Kid Zone with face painting and more.
Conrad said that so far, the response from customers since they took over has been very positive.
“People have said that we’re giving faster service, and an entirely new vibe to the place,” Conrad said. “We’re just really glad to be here.”
Cafe Ella is open Monday-Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information call 722-0480.