Muddy Paw Coffee bonds Eagle Rock community with puppies and coffee

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Customers chat and relax while their dogs play at Muddy Paw Coffee in Eagle Rock. Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

At Muddy Paw Coffee in Eagle Rock, the first cafe in Los Angeles to also feature a dog park, unleashed puppies run about and people lounge in wooden sun chairs, chatting and sipping coffee. The shop, which opened this year, provides dog owners and community members with a place to relax, work and bond over pets.

Founded in 2007, Muddy Paw Coffee started as an online store selling hand-roasted coffee and loose-leaf teas. With the mission to support local communities, Muddy Paw has partnered with more than 50 rescues nationwide to raise money for local charities. The cafe opened its first physical store in Silver Lake in 2013 and settled in Eagle Rock this June.

“This is the flagship store,” Darren La Borie, founder of Muddy Paw Coffee, said.

Three times the size of the Silver Lake store, the Eagle Rock store’s design is based on everything La Borie wanted as an animal owner.

“I wanted the dog park, I wanted the patio, and I wanted the front area that is dog friendly,” La Borie said. “And I still wanted the full bar that was completely interactive.”

Outdoor patio of Muddy Paw Coffee in Eagle Rock. Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

Sha Cabal, a barista at Muddy Paw Coffee, said the cafe’s communal calling appeals to her personally. Passionate about hospitality industry and serving others, Cabal’s long-term goal is to open a home cafe that brings people of all social backgrounds together.

“[My job is] not only making drinks and serving food, but also making sure everything’s in place, making sure everyone’s having a good time, catering to everyone’s needs and getting to know everyone,” Cabal said.

Decorated with fairy lights on the railings of the dog park, flowers on every table on the patio and a circular fireplace in the middle, the outdoor area at the back emanates warmth and coziness. The door to the inside bar area is always open.

“I want you to be able to have a conversation with me and ask whatever you want to ask,” La Borie said. “Coffee is all about community.”

According to La Borie, Muddy Paw has a three-tier mission: selling quality products, financially giving back and providing transparency on the money raised for the charities.

A coffee enthusiast, La Borie has been roasting coffee in his coffee shop Port City Coffee since 1992. By sourcing locally, hand-roasting and experimenting with flavors, La Borie wants to provide customers with quality drinks, food and other merchandise while supporting local businesses.

While Muddy Paw is a for-profit business, it partners with different local animal charities to help them raise money. These organizations are selected based on their community and animal-oriented values and not specific to one kind of animal, varying each month to diversify Muddy Paw’s outreach. Currently, Muddy Paw is sponsoring the non-profit organization FixNation and the volunteer street rescue effort Luxe Paws.

“I worked with horse rescues, bird rescues, cat rescues, turtle rescues,” La Borie said. “The idea is that I’m going to allow you as an organization if you’re helping animals, too.”

Pretzel hangs out at the patio of Muddy Paw Coffee. Pretzel is a two-and-a-half-year-old pug and a regular at the cafe. Her left hind leg was amputated due to a car accident but is still cheerful and confident in front of the camera. Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

Muddy Paw Coffee connects its customers with local organizations while these organizations promote Muddy Paw Coffee to their own supporters. According to La Borie, for every item sold at Muddy Paw, the sponsored organizations automatically receive $2. He said this interdependent network facilitates people’s awareness of animal welfare and the different local resources dedicated to it.

“We [Muddy Paw] just are like a portal,” La Borie said. “It’s not just me that helped that happen. What was exciting to me is that my customers have made that happen.”

Monica Santander, a regular at Muddy Paw Coffee Eagle Rock and owner of a rescued pug, said she often chats with La Borie and other people at the cafe and appreciates the cafe’s communal environment.

“It’s just a very relaxed environment,” Santander said. “I think he’s [La Borie] very intentional in creating space.”

Muddy Paw welcomes people of all intentions: grabbing coffee, walking their dogs, socializing over dogs and coffee or simply finding a place to sit and relax.

“I’m here for different reasons,” Santander said. “Now I’m just relaxing a little. Other times, I come and I’ll bring my materials and laptop.”

La Borie said he sees Muddy Paw as somewhere people can walk in easily, do their thing and make a difference in the meantime.

“I believe that the whole ‘Have a cup, save a pup’ is, you can change one person at a time,” La Borie said. “You can change one thing at a time — everybody, if they just do a little bit, things will change.”

Muddy Paw Coffee also hosts fundraiser events. For example, “Psychic Sunday Fundraiser” is one of Muddy Paw’s biggest events. Taking place three times a year, it invites psychics who give their time for free to help the donation activities. Muddy Paw Coffee Eagle Rock will hold a holiday costume contest Dec. 7. Raising money from entry fees, the contest provides an occasion for pet owners to come out and have fun with their pets.

“It’s escapism, a little bit, to me,” La Borie said.