On Jan. 14, bakers and baristas were scrambling to throw trash bags over espresso machines and use anything within reach to catch rainwater as a torrential downpour flooded Colossus Bread in Belmont Shore.

The flooding forced Kristin Colazas Rodriguez to close not only her Long Beach cafe, but also her San Pedro shop and farmer’s market booth. Pastries, bread and other products were all lost during a two-week closure that followed as Rodriguez and her husband, Nick Rodriguez, knocked out and replaced a wall and parts of the ceiling and made other repairs.

The storm ultimately cost the business tens of thousands of dollars.

Colossus, which quickly became a popular morning spot on Second Street after setting up shop in 2021, reopened on Jan. 29, but with a few noticeable differences. The cafe will now serve beer and wine and offer happy hour, bringing the young cafe closer to a traditional kafenion like the one owned by her great-grandfather, Constantine Colazas, in Athens, Greece.

When you walk into the cafe and look immediately to your right, you can spot a framed black-and-white photo of that shop.

Constantine Colazas, Kristin Colazas Rodriguez’s great-grandfather, stands in front of his kafenio in Athens, Greece. Courtesy photo

Traditional Greek cafes like her great-grandfather’s in Athens weren’t just places to get a caffeine fix. They were social hubs to play ping-pong, meet a stranger or even gamble while sipping a beer, wine or the harder stuff—ouzo or raki.

Constantine’s son, Xenophon Constantine Colazas, would eventually move to the United States, leaving behind sisters in Greece.

“The joke in my family is that when you say ‘Colazas’ they think you’ve either said Gonzales or Colossus, because it’s not a common name, even with Greeks,” Rodriguez said. “So the name died off in Greece. I got married and changed my name, so I kind of feel like it lives on,” she said. Colossus “is kind of a low-key nod to my family name.”

Not long after the flood, Xenophon, more affectionately known as “papou” (grandfather in Greek), died.

“It has been a trying two weeks,” she wrote in a newsletter, thanking the community for supporting her and her husband through the closure and the loss of her grandfather. “I’m so grateful for all of your support and proud of the community spaces we have built in Long Beach and San Pedro, as I know my papou was.”

“Great man,” she said looking out the window at the space where her cafe’s COVID-era parklet was recently taken down. “He would come here especially when we had the parklet. He loved the parklet. He would sit out here and say, ‘This is the closest thing to being in Greece.’”

Colossus owner Kristin Colazas Rodriguez’s grandfather, Xenophon Constantine Colazas (middle), sits with friends at a cafe. Courtesy photo

Rodriguez said she is working to get the proper permits in place to resurrect her parklet, which was also beloved by the community.

A Long Beach native, Rodriguez said her professional life began in the nonprofit sector, where she ultimately discovered her love for connecting and contributing to the community. Once she decided to pursue her passion for baking bread and eventually opening a bakery, she said things evolved quickly.

Over seven years, she developed her craft, from working as a bread baker in San Francisco to eventually developing her own pastries and bread to sell at farmers markets in Long Beach.

In 2019, she opened her first shop in San Pedro. Two years later she opened her larger space in Belmont Shore, where she and her team now bake their naturally leavened bread and pastries for all locations.

“I think my grandfather thought I was crazy,” she said. “Eventually, he was like, ‘OK, I get it now. You figured it out. You got where you wanted to be,’ and that was in a cafe.’”

Despite the spectacle of the cafe’s crowded mornings and being voted by Cal State Long Beach as the best place to meet a stranger on a date, Rodriguez said the team is still getting acquainted with Long Beach after the success of its San Pedro home base.

“It’s crazy to say, but we’re still meeting our neighborhood,” she said. “We’re still telling our community about us. People still walk in and ask if we’re a franchise. Here, we’re way busier today than we were last year, and we just keep meeting new people and getting busier … it’s ever evolving. I’m super excited about that.”

“Because we’re a coffee shop, we have groceries, we sort of attract the gamut of people who love food and who love small business,” she said.

The cafe has undergone a lot of subtle changes since it first opened.

One of Colossus Bread’s menu offerings. The shop reopened Jan. 29, 2023, after a two-week closure due to flooding. Photo by Jake Gotta.

The shop was able to do away with a tipping system, and Rodriguez raised all of her employees’ wages by 15%, along with getting the licensing to serve craft beer and natural wines from Greece, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and more. Next, Rodriguez will work to bring back more seating within the parklet that was so beloved by her papou. Eventually, she hopes to extend her cafe’s hours.

Rodriguez’s business in Belmont Shore is constantly evolving, but her vision for her cafe is unwavering: to bring the community together with more than a few nods to Constantine’s Athens kafenion.

Colossus Bread, located at 4715 Second Street in Long Beach, is open Monday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (pizza night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Happy hour will be Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Kat Schuster is the editor at the Long Beach Post and the author of Off the Clock, a weekly newsletter. You can reach her at kat@lbpost.com.