Olive Cafe celebrates 13 years of feeding Mission Beach
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 06/03/18 - 06:29 AM | 2380 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Olive Cafe at 805 Santa Clara Place. / Photo by Dave Schwab
Olive Cafe at 805 Santa Clara Place. / Photo by Dave Schwab
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Having recently marked the 13th anniversary of Olive Cafe in Mission Beach, owner Sarah Mattinson recalled how it was starting out.

“There was one full-time employee, one part-time employee – and me,” she said, noting there have been more than 100 employees since. “I didn’t have a lot of employees in the beginning because we were building the business.”

On May 12, Olive Cafe held a 13th-anniversary bash, providing free coffee and cookies in a birthday-like atmosphere.

“We had a lot of people, and a lot of older employees, come out for it,” said Mattinson.

A lot has changed in the intervening years. The restaurant at 805 Santa Clara Place has more than doubled in size, and the business has branched out into a nearby bakery and part-time ice cream shop.

A transplant from upstate New York, Mattinson’s family wasn’t in the restaurant business. Her father was a mail carrier and later postmaster, but their family lived adjacent to a deli.

“I just loved how [the deli] was part of the community and everyone would meet there,” said Mattinson.

After moving to San Diego, Mattinson got a scholarship to attend University of San Diego, where she majored in business, with an emphasis on purchasing and procurement.

“One of the best classes I took was negotiations, along with women in management courses, and that has definitely helped me,” she said, noting of her business, despite the long hours and stress, “It’s my baby that I’ve watched grow. Being here every day really paid off in building the local clientele.”

Describing her 2 1/2-year-old bakery as “a labor of love,” Mattinson said she now supplies about a dozen other local restaurants, mostly in Mission and Pacific beaches.

“I love knowing where my bread and ingredients come from,” she said.

Olive Cafe serves breakfast and lunch all day. The breakfast menu includes a host of scrambles, pancakes, and bowls. The lunch menu features a wide assortment of quesadillas, burritos, wraps, salads, sandwiches and desserts.

In a past life, Olive Cafe was two, single-family homes. Said Mattinson, “Someone in south Mission said their grandparents lived here 25 years in a one-room house.”

The dwelling-turned-cafe now sports a fireplace and a truly warm, homespun ambiance.

Mattinson feels fortunate to be centrally located in Mission Beach. “We’re really lucky because we have a parking lot nearby and bike racks,” she said.

Mattinson makes a point of being civically active. “I try to be a big part of the community, I’m involved in the women’s club, and town council,” she said. “I want to see our town do good things. And you’ve got to be a part of it to make that happen.”

Olive Cafe’s owner also likes her client mix, which changes seasonally, tripling or better during the summer peak.

Though Mission Beach doesn’t have nearly as many businesses as its neighbors in PB and OB, Mattinson noted, “We all sort of stick together and we all work on projects together, and I was really welcomed when I came in … so I try to do that with the new businesses coming in helping them get through the (slower) winter months.” 

Concerning the secret to her business longevity, the restaurateur noted, “You gotta be a chipmunk. You’ve got to hoard it from the summer to make it through the winter. It took me a good couple years to learn that.”

Olive Cafe

Where: 805 Santa Clara Place.

Hours: Mondays through Thursdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Info: 858-291-8222, olivecafe.biz.
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