When New Zealand natives Andrew “Stan” and Natalie Stanisich moved to the South Bay, they didn’t know they were going to get into coffee. While looking for work, they found themselves missing the delicious coffee they used to get from the vibey, local cafes back home. This sentiment sparked the concept of Two Guns Espresso.
What started as a passionate craving has now lead to six successful locations that serve delicious food, as well as coffee. We sat down with Stan and Natalie to find out more about what it took to turn Two Guns Espresso into the local favorite it is today.
How did you two meet?
We were set up and met in a nightclub when we were much younger. We were long distance for a bit, but this gave us a reason to go on a lot of wonderful trips and travel around the world. We moved here in 2009. We didn’t know we were going to get into coffee, but we knew the South Bay was a hidden gem.
What inspired Two Guns Espresso? Why coffee?
When you haven’t been to a job interview for a long time, over 17 years, it can be a little daunting. When we arrived, we looked for a place we wanted to go. We missed the cafes from home that had a real vibe and scene going on. Not knowing anything about running a café, we underestimated how difficult it would be. We spent two years trying to find our first location, and then it also took two years for it to be sustainable and profitable. We called it Two Guns because there are two shots of espresso in every drink, and we were the two guns that started the business. Natalie’s the gunpowder. Before Instagram, advertising our business was mostly word of mouth, so the name had a ring to it.
What makes your coffee different?
We strive to elevate quality coffee. We think great coffee needs to go with great quality milk. If you’re charging a premium, people expect the good stuff in that product. We focus heavily on the milk products and use good organic milk. We didn’t always want to be an organic café, but we now do what we can. We use grass-fed butter for our food items. We partner with the best coffee providers we can find. We’re from New Zealand, so we care about the environment and the animals are very important to us. We source local stuff as much as possible.
What are some of the most popular coffee orders?
In terms of coffee, the most ordered items are our Flat White, Frozen Robert, and the standard latte.
How about food?
First, the Stanwhich. It is very popular. We came up with that name because it was a play on something we were doing in the kitchen. We wanted to have something that people could have as a fast breakfast option. It’s unique enough to the market in that we can make it reasonably fast. The pretzel bun is great because people think pretzels are heavy, but if you cook the cut face of it over the grill, it gets this nice texture that is crunchy and crispy but also light and airy. It became an Instagram thing.
Next would be the Avocado Toast. We use a spinach avocado toast with burrata and fresh tomatoes. We also do a vegan version with watermelon radish.
What are your personal favorite Items off of the menu?
Natalie: The Potatoe Rosti — It’s a potato cake that’s made with potato and mustard that’s fried, so it has those crispy edges. It’s served with a smear of pesto, topped with egg, honey bacon, and salad with arugula, avocado and fresh lemon juice. It’s great because you get the sustenance of potato, the creaminess of egg, the sweet and salty bacon, all topped with the fresh salad. It’s so tasty.
Stan: I like the salmon bagel. I love the New Zealand salmon. It makes you feel good when you eat it. Once in a while, I’ll treat myself to the Stanwich. More than one a week and I become a Stanwich addict.
What do you guys love most about being restaurant owners?
When you are trying to establish yourself in a new home, you may find it hard to break down barriers and meet new people. However, if you have a product that everyone wants, they come to you. We’ve met so many people around here that have become good friends. It’s really nice to have a place that you go to all the time and see people that are happy and catching up with food and coffee. It’s awesome, that’s what you want. You build it, and initially its yours, but then you realize that it’s not just yours. We’re the facilitators that keep it clean and well-staffed, but ultimately it’s the community that makes it so enjoyable.
What makes the perfect cup of coffee?
You have to have the right coffee, the right equipment, and a well-trained staff. It’s not really difficult to make good coffee, but it is difficult to make great coffee. There are a lot of variables.
You have to ask yourself, ‘What are the things I can control?’. You can control good water. The water needs to be in a certain TDS dissolvable ratio. Then you’re looking at the coffee and the roast date. You’re checking the grinder, which has to be in good shape and grinding the coffee in the correct consistency. Then there’s the humidity, the barista, the weighing out of the coffee, and more.
More importantly, we like sharing the joy of what we’re doing before the science behind it. We’re a bit more give and take. Our brand is more relaxed, coastal, and easy. We certainly have a high-quality product, but we are also very more customer service and hospitality focused. We focus on the whole package.
No matter how busy you are, your baristas are still happy to do latte art. Tell us more about that.
When you see a place that’s doing the latte art even when they’re busy, you know that they really care about all of the steps. When you see a place that’s doing zero art, then you know there isn’t enough training going on. It doesn’t take that much longer to make a nice design and really make someone’s day. When someone hasn’t seen latte art and they see it for the first time, they can’t believe what they’re looking at. Our baristas also take great pride in what they do. It’s worth it every time.
What would you tell someone who wants to open a coffee shop?
This is not an easy industry to be a part of. However, If you’re hungry enough, your eyes are wide open, you have a huge passion, unlimited amounts of energy, and you’ve really thought about all of the downside and hard work it will take, then I will provide my time and knowledge for you. Some people go into it with the wrong motivation. It’s not just about coffee, there is so much that happens behind the scenes to make a successful coffee shop. Make sure you think all of the little details through.
Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?
In terms of LA, we love Republique. Locally, we enjoy Gabi James and Love + Salt.
Two Guns Espresso
Address: 360 N Sepulveda Blvd, El Segundo, CA 90245