From the outside, Coffee Station looks like any other American cafe.
That’s because owner Alptekin Özkılıç, who was born in Istanbul, aims to strike a balance between Downtown’s bustling clientele and a desire to bring Turkish traditions to Long Beach.
Coffee Station, which had its first day on Jan. 20 within the former Daily Dose space, brings Turkish coffee and baklava to Downtown, a full food menu, signature drinks and a menu of coffee classics that everyone will recognize.
Özkılıç, a mixed martial artist who formerly competed as a flyweight in the Ultimate Fighter Championship, knew he would eventually open his own business after his fighting career inevitably came to an end in 2016.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” Özkılıç said. “I was looking for a new venture.”
When his brother, Engin, moved from Turkey to Long Beach last June, the pair shared a longing for the places they missed in Turkey, where people could hang out after dinner and grab a nonalcoholic drink.
“Coffee shops are a big part of the culture there,” Özkılıç said.
In Turkey, it’s not uncommon to stroll through tiny alleyways late in the evening to find a one-manned cafe with mismatched tables out on the sidewalk where people sip coffee and talk.
The brothers don’t drink alcohol and found that many in Long Beach, like them, were looking for a place open in the evening that wasn’t a bar.
They hope Coffee Station can bring a place like that to Downtown. In the first week of being open, the brothers kept having customers walking in as their staff closed at 5 p.m., Özkılıç said. They’ve since extended their hours and are hoping to stay open even later as the business gets up and running.
At first, Özkılıç wasn’t sure how people would react to the Turkish pop he plays in the shop or the sight of Turkish delights and imported coffee on display. His customer base is not exclusively Turkish or Middle Eastern, but he said so far, many customers have been curious about the culture and eager to try something new.
Turkish coffee is traditionally made by boiling finely ground coffee in a cezve (a small copper pot) and served unfiltered in small cups.
Other menu items include signature drinks like cereal killer, which comes with espresso, vanilla, hazelnut and oat milk as well as classic lattes, americanos and drip coffee. Matcha, green tea and chai are also on the menu.
The shop also offers a large food selection from fresh baked desserts like cheesecake and Turkish baklava to sandwiches with turkey sausage, egg whites, arugula, cheddar and Sriracha. Bagels, croissants, avocado and hummus toast, smoothies and acai bowls are also made to order.
“Everything happened organically,” Özkılıç said. He got to know the owners of Daily Dose and jumped at the chance in November to take over the space.
Özkılıç moved to Huntington Beach in 2018, after ten years of fighting professionally. He wrestled in Turkey before immigrating to the United States in 2004 to attend college in Missouri.
He continued to wrestle in college while studying business and later went on to receive an MBA, but at the time he was itching to do something else. A friend connected to the industry invited him to start fighting professionally.
“It ended up a full time career, everything fell into place,” Özkılıç said.
Özkılıç’s success as a fighter ultimately landed him in UFC, the most recognized mixed martial arts championship, as its first Turkish mixed martial artist.
That career had to come to an end when the physical toll on his body became too much. His last fight was in 2016 and two years later he moved from New York to Huntington Beach in pursuit of better weather.
Özkılıç had a good feeling about Downtown Long Beach and felt it would be the perfect spot for his coffee shop. In a way, the foot traffic reminded him of some places in Europe, he said.
“Long Beach is very unique and open-minded,” Özkılıç said. “Our neighbors, the other businesses, have been welcoming.”
For now, the shop is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Özkılıç says he hopes to keep the shop open later as business picks up.
Coffee Station is located at 440 Pine Avenue. Find more information on their Instagram here.