15 years ago, Korean American owner Frank Kim was training to be a firefighter when he first tried coffee. It quickly became a hobby as he began to search for different kinds, eventually leading him to become a manager at Demitasse. Long story short, firefighting didn’t work out and Kim became interested in not only the coffee part of the business but also the hospitality aspect: creating a space that brings people together and a product that he’s proud to serve. He grew up helping his immigrant parents with their retail business, which made him initially rebel against that kind of work, but the influence ultimately came back around with Highlight.
The first location opened in Glendale in 2015 in the corner of a historic 1920s hotel, and in late 2019, he opened a second location in Pasadena. Over the course of the past year, Kim felt like he was going from being an expert at running coffee shops to feeling like it’s all new again. And while the regulars have helped him stay open, he said it’s hard to imagine things bouncing back to the way they were before, but he’s optimistic that his customers will continue to support Highlight both as a business and a welcoming community space.