A few times a week, customers can watch Gacia Tachejian at her bright and airy Laidrey cafe in Tarzana roasting coffee beans behind a counter. The fruits of her labor result in light and medium roasts, punctuated with hints of strawberry, chocolate and caramel.
She’s the only roaster at Laidrey and operates a 300-or-so pound industrial Probat roaster to make small batches for her shop.
As impressive as watching Gacia in action is hearing about the journey that led to her opening Laidrey. The Tarzana local took a circuitous path from a career in behavioral research to going all in with her biggest passion: coffee.
“Coffee is the best part of my day,” she says. “People look forward to having alcohol at night, and I just look forward to having my coffee in the morning.”
Laidrey is a reflection of Gacia’s passions. A lover of design, she took inspiration from Indonesian cafes and mixed concrete with wood elements. The walls are navy blue-hued, and large windows let natural light spill into the space. A table displaying bags of Laidrey coffee, with beans hailing from Rwanda to Indonesia, are accompanied by signs that describe the beans’ origins and tasting notes. To bring the community into the fold, she hosts public cuppings once a month.
The coffee menu is robust and goes beyond drips and espresso to concoctions like honey-lavender and ginger-turmeric lattes. Laidrey offers pastries from the artisanal East LA wholesale bakery Bakers Kneaded, such as pistachio croissants, apple pie pastries that resemble Pop-Tarts, and kouign-amanns. Gacia also curated the cafe’s open-face toast menu, which includes one version with mascarpone cheese and sliced pears topped with pistachios and a honey drizzle.
Coffee piqued her interest when Gacia was a teen working at a Starbucks in Tarzana. But at the time, she didn’t think a coffee career was viable. An Armenian Christian born in Saudi Arabia, and she and her family had sought religious asylum in the United States.
“Ironically, people were trying to be conservative during the pandemic, and I just took the biggest risk.”
“My parents don’t have university degrees,” Gacia says. “My mom didn’t even graduate high school. So it was really important for them that my brother and I went to school and got careers.”
After getting her bachelor’s in psychology at UCLA, she spent a couple of years in New York in the early 2010s pursuing her graduate degree in social work at Columbia University. She became enamored with the craft coffee scene there, a stark contrast to the coffee chains that were prevalent in her hometown.
By the time she moved back to the San Fernando Valley and was commuting to UCLA for work running clinical trials in behavioral health medicine, she found herself mapping out specialty coffee shop stops along the way. At one point, Gacia realized she was spending too much money on coffee.
That led her to start roasting beans in her garage.
Primarily self taught through books and videos, Gacia says she had a hard time finding a welcoming roasting community that provided mentorship. Still, she was able to grow her talents into something uniquely her own. She sought out ethically sourced and sustainable coffee beans from importers who paid fair wages to coffee farmers, 70% of whom are women.
“That’s the social worker in me to figure out a way to buy coffee that feels good to me, that I’m supporting these farmers,” she says.
Gacia’s hobby blossomed into a side hustle. She launched a coffee cart in 2015 that she took to farmers markets and festivals. Marisa Briones, who was her boss at UCLA and had become a close friend, took notice.
“Because we had a previous working relationship, I knew if she had her heart set on something, she would go for it 100% ,” Marisa says. “Not only does she choose the best coffee farmers, she roasts the coffee to perfection.”
Gacia ended up partnering with Marisa and her husband, Paul Burgis, who’s the COO and CFO of Golden Road Brewing (beer, not coffee), to open Laidrey.
As they were waiting to build out Laidrey, they introduced the brand to the community by parking the coffee cart in front of the cafe in June 2021. It was a hit and quickly generated a following. Laidrey officially opened its doors this past January.
It still surprises Gacia that she quit her full-time job to open a coffee shop.
“Ironically, people were trying to be conservative during the pandemic, and I just took the biggest risk,” she says. “I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I want to do my passion. We only live once.’”