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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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A ‘Creative Hub’ Closes

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Stephanie Berumen-Medina
Vivoz located on B street

On February 25th, the local family-owned vegan coffee shop, Vivoz, closed its doors for the final time. Located on B Street in Hayward, the shop had been in operation for nearly three years before closing after struggling to keep the business afloat. The owner, Armando Juarez, harbored a distinct vision for Vivoz, driven by his passion for coffee and a desire to enrich his community’s coffee culture. 

It all began with the first family-owned business—a quaint plant shop right off B Street, called Vozqe. The plant shop served as the beginning of their business  journey driven by the family’s passion for greenery, particularly instilled by Armando’s mother. However, it wasn’t just about plants for Armando and his family. It was at Vozqe that they first introduced the aroma of freshly brewed coffee to their customers. Setting up a coffee cart alongside the greenery, they began serving coffee to patrons who wandered in. Armando occasionally hosted coffee pop-ups at events which expanded their reach and ignited Armando’s entrepreneurial aspirations.

Everything from the to the energy of both shops, Armando wanted his customers to feel the energy of both Vozqe and Vivoz. Armando explained, “during the pandemic my love for plants grew. It was a love I already had from my mom but I was able to dedicate my time to taking care of them and watering them. I began to see how plants gave a form of energy to a space and made it feel alive so I wanted to share that with others’ ‘.  

Armando, who grappled with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes a few years back, embarked on a mission to transform Vivoz into more than just a coffee shop—it became a haven where patrons could indulge pastries crafted from gluten-free and vegan options. “We didn’t necessarily try to completely change the coffee but we didn’t want to have something you could get at Starbucks or Peets coffee. We wanted people to have something different,” he emphasized. But his vision extended beyond his personal journey; it encompassed a fervent desire to share this lifestyle with others, thus creating Vivoz.

Vivoz, much like numerous other small businesses in downtown Hayward, grappled with the challenges imposed by the pandemic and never fully recovered. Armando talked about the struggle these businesses faced in sustaining themselves, mentioning a lack of community support as a significant hurdle. Eventually, Vivoz had to scale back its operating hours due to a lack of customers. The vegan coffee shop opted to shutter its doors on Mondays and Tuesdays, recognizing these as slow days that failed to justify the operational costs. Armando said,  “It wouldn’t make any sense to stay open looking at the numbers we make. It’s doable but people are so conditioned to going to those bigger known brands like Peet’s Coffee who have the funding”.

At the age of 24, Armando, along with his family, started Vozqe. He had a vision for what he wanted his brand to look like. He mentioned wanting “to niche down and be unorthodox and to just try something different”. Vivoz eventually came to be something different people wanted. Cal State East Bay transfer, Julia Ramirez said, “It was a very welcoming environment, Armando and his staff were very kind to customers and would always make sure everyone liked their coffee and service. I eat dairy and sugar free for health reasons and this place was the only coffee shop in Hayward that had these options for me. It is really sad to see a local business close its doors.”

For many students at Cal State East Bay, Vivoz was more than just a coffee shop; it was a haven nestled just down the hill from campus, offering the perfect ambiance for studying or simply hanging out with friends. Armando expressed profound admiration for local businesses, recognizing the immense challenges they face in staying afloat, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Books on B stood resilient among those businesses, beating the odds to remain open despite the hardships brought by the pandemic.

Stephanie Berumen-Medina

During my interview with its owner, Renee Rettig, regarding the closure of Vivoz, Rettig shared, “We were all very thrilled to have them downtown and to follow their passion and create something so unique”. Vivoz held a special place, drawing in a vibrant demographic and striving to cater to its customers with the utmost care and dedication. 

In the end, the closure of both businesses stemmed from a combination of insufficient regular customers and mounting expenses. Armando said,“small businesses barely have enough to cover expenses plus rent so it makes it more challenging if we don’t make a certain month or goal because we cant stick around that long. And that’s what happened with Vozqe and now it’s happened with Vivoz”. Armando’s sentiments echo those of countless small business owners grappling with uncertainty while questioning the city officials’ vision for downtown Hayward. Despite receiving a grant at the outset, Armando believes more substantial support from the city is essential for businesses like his to flourish.

Armando expressed his contemplation about potentially revisiting the venture in the future, albeit with a different approach. Reflecting on the journey, he shared, “I am proud of everything that we were able to do. I saw the numbers, it just didn’t hit what we needed to be able to continue. I saw a lot of growth, I met new people and made new friendships and the community was able to see what could be done. So I think in the future somebody would be able to take it to new heights. The brand is still very valuable. We were just not able to get the numbers that we wanted but I know it could work somewhere else and probably somebody could take it farther than I was able to”. 

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