Brass Lamp Book Bar’s Opening a Testament to the Importance of City Support for Startups


Photo courtesy of the Brass Lamp Book Bar.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha Argosino at a gathering of business owners and the Innovation team at We Labs. During this session we shared our individual challenges and experiences as business owners here in the city and offered input and ideas for how local government can get involved to make starting or operating a business in Long Beach more efficient.

Samantha used this opportunity to share her aspirations of opening a “book bar” here in downtown Long Beach, and where she was at in the process.

“Coffee shops close too early, and bars are too loud to collaborate and get work done,” she said. “A book bar is a happy medium.”

The concept of having a coffee shop that stays open late and serves beer, wine and food, a place where people can host meetings, work, read, write and listen to live jazz in a comfortable atmosphere right on downtown Long Beach’s Promenade, seemed like something that would have people lining up to help with whatever she would need to open her doors as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this was only partially true.

Samantha comes from a pretty solid background as far as business is concerned. She’s a Cal-State Long Beach graduate with an extensive background in marketing, finance and business development, so she’s definitely as qualified as any first-time entrepreneur to bring this place to Downtown.

Back in December 2014, she raised $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to get the last of the funding needed to finish construction and open the doors by early Spring 2015. The future looked promising and with the support of her community, the finish line was within reach. Unfortunately, shortly after construction started it came to a halt, as she describes in a a blog post on the bar’s website.

Fast forward to today; The Brass Lamp has created 25 jobs for local Long Beach residents, and downtown has a new unique destination—only three other bars of it’s kind exist in the United States.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Samantha at her book bar—with a cup of perfectly-made cappuccino and the yummiest grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had—during her soft opening where she took a few moments to share the details of what lead to her most recent victory of (finally) being able to open her doors to the public Monday, October 5th.

Amara: Now that you are finally opening, how supportive was the City in helping you get to this point?

Samantha: Honestly, the City was helpful in making this all happen. They provided a number of resources that I took advantage of, that really helped me with various aspects of my business.

What resources did you end up using?

The [Small Business Development Center] was great. I went to the classes that they offer for business planning, financing, web development, etc. Their mentors and advisors were really helpful. At the end of the day, these resources are here to help, but it’s up to the entrepreneur to execute and keep things moving.

I remember you faced some crippling challenges. What did you need more support with during this process that may have prevented those issues from happening?

There were a couple things. It would have been great to get more support as a first time tenant of a commercial property. Negotiations and navigating the building process wasn’t easy. Business licensing was challenging as well, because it requires getting a lot of people involved that don’t communicate with each other. Dealing with departments that aren’t on the same page drained resources and took a lot of time.

So what’s next for you? What does the community have to look forward to here at the Book Bar now that you’re open?

We’re excited for the live jazz and blues music, so be on the lookout for that. We’ll be having book signings and we’re eager for book clubs to use our place as a central place to meet. Also, for the month of October, we’ll only be open until 11pm. After October, we’ll be open until 2am as we had originally planned.

That’s awesome! If you had some words of advice for first time entrepreneurs looking to start their own business, what would they be?

Keep going. Don’t think about the process, or else it gets too overwhelming. If you have a great idea, don’t let critics get in the way.

The Brass Lamp Book Bar is located at 245 Promenade North, Ste. 100 at 3rd and the Promenade on the ground floor of the Mark Schneider building, across from Michael’s Pizzeria. Initially, the Brass Lamp will be open Monday-Saturday 8:00AM – 11:00PM and Sunday 12:00PM – 10:00PM. The kitchen closes at 9:00PM. Parking is free for the first two hours in the parking structure across 3rd Street.

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