Lomita’s Great Awakening

Lomita, the little town in between Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, Harbor City and Carson — the town that has a lot of signs so you don’t forget you’re in Lomita — is the home of a new coffeehouse, Awakenings.

It might seem at first that Awakenings’ owners, Julie and Joseph Olson, have come a little late to the coffeehouse trend. Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz has expounded for years about making his giant chain a “third place” between home and work. Internet access is pretty standard; although Awakenings’ is free while Starbucks and Coffee Bean are hot spots only for paid-up wi-fi subscribers.

Open-mike nights and Saturday night jazz, blues and rock are scarce, but not unknown in the South Bay — Sacred Grounds in San Pedro, Coffee Cartel in Redondo are two places you can expect some indie-style entertainment on a Saturday night.

Awakenings, however, does add two things to the formula: Kids and God.

Starbucks is not kid-friendly (which doesn’t prevent a lot of South Bay moms from letting their little prodigies run wild in them) because too many breakable items are within a toddler’s reach. But according to the Daily Breeze story this morning, Awakenings has “separate kiddie room where children can play with toys or doodle, so long as their latte-sipping moms and dads supervise.” As for God:

…come Sunday mornings, spirituality is brewed.

That’s right, Joseph and Julie Olson are also pastors of the multiethnic church known as Vineyard Xtreme, which holds its weekly services at Awakenings.

But the Olsons stop short of billing Awakenings as a religious coffeehouse. It’s a venue for all sorts of performances and events, they say, including the Sunday service.

Nevertheless, Julie Olson acknowledges there’s a thin line to be walked as a businesswoman and pastor.

“Sometimes religion can polarize, and it has polarized in this country,” she said. “I don’t want anyone who comes in here to feel uncomfortable or alienated.”

Even more unique than all of this is foot traffic in Lomita. City officials quoted in the story were excited that something “new age” has come to their little village. “New age” is not the phrase that generally comes to mind when envisioning Lomita.


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