Despite the Challenges of the Pandemic, Hi-Fi Espresso’s Cup Overflows with Support
What’s the buzz?
- CategoryEat & Drink, People
- Written byTanya Monaghan
- Photographed byNate Dumlao
Hi-Fi Espresso loves and adores all things Los Angeles. Founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife Jeff and Karen Prugh, the South Bay coffee spot with two locations pays homage to the cinema, fashion and groovy ’70s vibes. This all comes naturally for Jeff, a USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate, and Karen, a Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate and El Segundo native.
Jeff, who grew up in Florida, met Karen at the hair salon where she worked. He jokes, “Karen caught my eye at the first visit, and it only took me seven years of going to that salon to get the nerve to ask her out.” It was worth the long wait, as the two got married not long after that first date.
Two years after happily living in the South Bay, the young couple decided to uproot and have a little adventure in New York. They took full advantage of all the metropolis had to offer. They enjoyed the diversity of city life along with the strong sense of community and support for the arts that New York is known for.
When Karen became pregnant with their first child, Quincy, the expecting parents decided to return to the South Bay, where both sets of grandmothers live. But they soon found themselves longing for the New York coffee shop vibe so prominent in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, where coffee meshed with style and fine goods. Jeff and Karen realized they could bring their love for coffee and design together and create a cool, inviting environment with a stylistic edge right here in the South Bay.
Karen and Jeff opened their first location of Hi-Fi Espresso in Hermosa Beach, right on the Pacific Coast Highway. Every inch of the 541-square-foot space (which, coming from New York, seemed huge) is thoughtfully curated. It is a single roaster shop serving Counter Culture beans, roasted once a week in a space in Downtown LA.
Relying mostly on word of mouth, the Prughs created their own buzz, doing fun little pop-ups and bringing in vegan donuts or bagels from other small businesses. Jeff reflects, “At first it was frustrating because people in the neighborhood didn’t even know we were there or that there is ample parking in back. Ironically, with COVID-19, the quarantine and people staying at home, more people are finding us.”
Just before the pandemic, they opened their second location in the heart of Riviera Village in Redondo Beach, where a kitchen serves an all-day, tantalizing food menu from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Karen’s favorite is the house-made waffle, and Jeff’s is the “Low East”—a vegan Soyrizo hash sandwich on a bagel.
The creative couple thoroughly enjoyed the process of designing their stores. A scene in Jeff’s favorite movie, Boogie Nights, inspired the name Hi-Fi, and the concept is an ode to the ’70s—including the names of some of their menu items.
In addition to serving the highest fidelity in coffee, tea, kombucha, food and fine goods, Hi-Fi is certified as a member of the California Green Business Network—striving to lower our carbon footprint and protect our oceans. All foods are vegetarian except one pescatarian dish.
There is plenty to peruse in their perfectly curated space, including small-batch items from honey and candles to T-shirts and ceramics. Film books are scattered around the store, and free Wi-Fi encourages customers to sit down and chill for a while.
Jeff and Karen now have a second daughter, Wesley, so operating two shops has been a juggling act for both. During the first lockdown, they completely closed both stores for two months but have found great support from their patrons and community. With no deferred rent, the small business owners opened back up in mid-May in an all-online, contactless manner.
Through all of this, Jeff and Karen continue to take it one day at a time. Their regulars have been faithful, and they are grateful to anyone who comes through their doors.
“We believe in the positive powers of coffee and design,” says Jeff. “A high-quality cup can kick-start a day, ignite the imagination and inspire creativity. Coffee is our passion, community is our mission and collaboration is our desire.”