We had the good fortune of connecting with Sousanna Alexander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sousanna, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The initial thought process in starting my own business was creating a space for people from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities to create a familiar feeling of home. I am Armenian but was raised in Syria; therefore, I aimed to serve my favorite food items from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, as I call those areas my original home. My goal was to extend an olive branch of likeminded community and culture to Laguna Beach which is reflective in the namesake of my café, as Zeytoon means olive branch in many different languages.
What should our readers know about your business?
My business is unique in that it provides customers with homemade, authentic, and tasty Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes that are not as common in our general cuisine. All of our dishes were created from generational family recipes and we pride ourselves in preparing our items handmade and in house to ensure the quality of a grandmother’s dinner table.
As someone who was completely unfamiliar with running a business, it required hard work, determination, and believing in our product to get to where are today after 11 years. Like any accomplishment, it presented its fair share of challenges, but but proved to be extremely rewarding to witness the satisfaction of our long-time patrons.
The lessons I have learned from my journey with Zeytoon Cafe is to stay focused on the core of this endeavor and to not stray from the original goal of this business. During challenging times, it was essential to not compromise the values and message of this café so it remains a rewarding experience.
I was born in Armenia and raised in Syria before permanently moving to California, and I would never have imagined that I would open a small, family-owned café in beautiful Laguna Beach. This has been a passion project for myself and my parents who were forced to flee Syria following the Civil War. Therefore, I aimed to create Zeytoon Cafe as a piece of my rich cultural background for my family and myself in this beautiful state that we now call home. What started as a big dream with a limited menu and items has now grown substantially into reality. We are excited to announce that our menu has expanded to include many delicious authentic items, our hours have extended to include breakfast and dinner, and our home in Laguna Beach has been extremely welcoming.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my family was visiting from Armenia, I would take them to my favorite hangouts in Laguna Beach.
I would start the day with a coffee and breakfast on Zeytoon Cafe’s beautiful rooftop deck with an ocean view. Then, I would take a walk along the boardwalk through Heisler Park right across the street until downtown Laguna.
We would spend the day perusing Forest Avenue and visit the art museums and locally owned shops before packing our sunscreen and heading to the gorgeous Shaw’s Cove or Crescent Bay beaches in North Laguna.
We would enjoy the refreshing water and the hot sun until dinner at the delicious Italian restaurant Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Canyon.
After dinner, we would head to the Sawdust Festival to visit the local artists and enjoy live music or attend the Laguna Pageant of the Master’s for a terrific live art performance.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to my family. The encouragement and constant support of my kids, husband, and parents have encouraged me to continue this journey for 11 years.