SoCal Explorer Partner Highlight: G&B Coffee

From champion baristas Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, emerges G&B Coffee, based out of the iconic Grand Central Market in downtown LA. This beloved LA coffee shop originated in 2012 as a pop up in Virgil Village, before moving to its permanent flagship location at the Grand Central Market in 2013.  

G&B serves up coffee, espresso drinks, and teas from the world’s top roasters and farms alongside a small curated selection of pastries. This shop is most focused on creating quality, craft coffees over anything else and paying special attention to details on each brew.

Metrolink spoke with General Manager of G&B John Puppo, who has been working at G&B for four years and oversees the operations at the shop’s Grand Central Market location. Puppo shared a deeper insight into the shop’s history, the impact that the symbiotic relationship between the business and the downtown LA community has with each other, and the importance of public transportation both in his personal life and for traveling around Los Angeles.  

“They’re like the pantheon of barista heroes, having competed at the national level in barista competitions,” says Puppo admirably of the company’s co-founders. “We’re a coffee company driven by an idiosyncratic style of service, says Puppo. Theirs is a more democratic service style, Puppo says, where everyone is welcome to walk up to the bar, and the barista is responsible for making sure everyone is served.  This cocktail bar style of service is far communal than lining up and staring at the backs of the guests in front of you that you’d find in more traditional coffee shop environments — as opposed to lining up and facing the back of each next guest in line like in a traditional coffee shop. “It was building a culture of people who were ‘standing side by side,’” says Puppo.  

This is a group of people who work very hard to create the best product and experience possible for each customer. “Everyone moves fast and with intention,” says Puppo, who   has honed his craft at some of the most coveted coffee spots on the planet — even spending time in  Melbourne, Australia, “the center of the coffee world” for espresso-lovers. He says he learned the art and craft of being a barista in a destination where baristas are extremely revered and highly respected. “I was, and still am, a coffee nerd, and I wanted to work for Charles and Kyle, and at the best coffee shops I could find,” he says. 

“At G&B, we focus on making our employees feel like they can have a professional lifestyle while also making coffee, providing space for people to do this as a career, as opposed to treating it more as a part time gig,” says Puppo. “Anyone who wants to make coffee a part of their life can come and do that here.”  

Puppo is a huge fan of public transportation, having been a metro commuter for over a year when he lived on the Westside of LA in Playa Del Rey and worked in Los Feliz. Puppo would ride his bike to the Culver City metro station, take a train into downtown LA, and then bike over to his job on the Eastside.  

“As a monthly passholder, public transportation has been a really seminal part of my connection to Los Angeles,” he said. “For a long time, my Los Angeles experience had been kept in a bubble, centralized to my neighborhood, scene and culture. But as somebody who took the train every single day for a really long time, I was forced  into a community that welcomed me. You start to see the same people on the train and I had some striking Los Angeles experiences during my commute. Moments that made me feel like a part of the city. 

“There’s something really beautiful about being a bike commuter on a train. I’d see the same people every day hanging out in the same car with their bikes. I got to meet a lot of people and it was a fun way to have a community and communication with strangers that I otherwise wasn’t getting,” says Puppo. 

Puppo finally describes what he appreciates most about working at G&B and Grand Central Market — the market’s sense of community and the shared collective understanding of what it means to stay safe together, supporting each other during the pandemic.  

“I think there has been an understanding that we’re all in this together, we’re all a part of this cultural staple of downtown that’s been affected by COVID, and I think that everybody has been making sure that we can make the creative, collective energy at the market feel special,” says Puppo. “Continuing to provide great customer service experiences, while continuing to be safe — being aware of the market as a whole and communicating with each other and supporting each other through this time.”  

When SoCal Explorer rewards members take the train to G&B in DTLA and show their loyalty card, they will receive 10% off their purchase.

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