Joey Villalobos was not expecting to become a business owner when he did. This time last year he was managing Commodity, a small coffee shop within Long Beach’s Zaferia district. Now, he’s running his own coffee shop within the same space with a new name: Good Time.
Within six months, Villalobos has transformed the cafe from what he characterized as a somewhat stodgy and unwelcoming environment into an inclusive community hub.
“We’re kind of just flipping the script. Now you can stay as long as you want—just chill and have a good time,” he said.
The shop is now also open to all who want to use the space after hours to teach a class, host a show, hold club meetings—you name it, he says.
“If you have an idea, come through and I have the space for it,” he said, adding that use of the space is free of charge. “So many people have ideas, but they don’t have a place to execute them. I have a space now. I’m not going to be selfish with it.”
On the evening of Feb. 15, the idea was queer speed dating; on Mondays, the shop draws around 30 people for its smut book club, and every second Saturday, there’s a makers market.
Villalobos started working at Commodity as a barista in December of 2019, the same month he moved to Long Beach. And while he had no plans to become a business owner, an unexpected series of events led him to where he is now, with Good Time.
The staff has all stayed the same—but the name, concept and even the square footage is all new.
Last year, Villalobos said he and the rest of the staff were planning to walk out on the job because of concerns with the owner at the time. But then, the folks behind the plant shop next door approached him with a proposition: to co-own a new cafe in the same space.
“‘I’m down,’” Villalobos said then.
“It was always kind of a dream, like, ‘Oh, I’d love to own and have my own shop.’ And then all of a sudden, all this chaos happened, and it just kind of landed in my lap.”
Ben Lau and Bill Uechi—the owners of a brand agency and also the next-door plant shop, All Time—decided to offer up their own space to expand the coffee shop. (Remember how we mentioned that the square footage changed?)
Now, Lau and Uechi are also owners of Good Time, but Villalobos is really the face.
“We saved (the previous owner) from bankruptcy, we kept the landlord happy by keeping the business going forward, and we kept a really young and great staff happy that could grow with the business,” Lau told the Business Journal. “We saw it as an opportunity to keep it going by doing the right things.”
One thing about Commodity that was beloved was its coffee, which carried over, Villalobos said. The baristas of Good Time still serve Onyx coffee, which he says is a highly sought after Arkansas roaster of specialty coffee.
Another big draw of Commodity was the Long Beach-based pop-up Hamburgers Nice, which still serves its popular breakfast burgers, potato tots, dinner burgers and beyond at Good Time on Thursdays and Fridays.
While Villalobos is proud of the coffee, the cafe’s food menu and the continued pop-up with Hamburgers Nice, he says he is mostly excited about bringing people together. And he’s especially smitten with being able to offer more events—like queer speed dating.
“I’m really excited to dip into my own community,” he said. “For a long time I was very, like, not closeted, but kind of closeted because I’m trans. So I never really embraced that up until probably two or so years ago.
“So now all of a sudden I have this space, and I should do more of these things for my own community,” he said.
Good Time, located at 1322 Coronado Ave., serves beer, natural wines, coffee and plants from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Friday, when it stays open until 9 p.m. The kitchen is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Hamburgers Nice pops up from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays.