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Bello Mundo Ascends, Expands

A little over 5-years ago, a new coffee shop opened up in Downtown SLO that was almost as small, literally, as a hole in the wall, or maybe a walk-in closet.
Bello Mundo was sandwiched between the independent music seller Boo Boo Records, the fair trade shop HumanKind and near the used bookseller Phoenix Books. The suite of shops all held similar humanist values and shared a customer base. Bello Mundo gained such a following for its fresh baked goods and select single source pour over coffees and they eventually started to strain at the seams of the small space.
About a year after its opening, Jonathan Stauf and wife, Jenna Madama, joined the company as co-owners and Stauf became the onsite owner-operator. In time the pair took over completely from partner and founder, Jennifer Martinez, and ushered the closet sized coffee shop into a new era, with a comparatively enormous new space just a few doors down the Monterey Street. And, in a first for the customers already used to gluten free offerings and hand shaved chocolate in their mochas, wi-fi was added for the laptop addicted.

They added new practices to the company culture, and the pastries and other offerings flourished. For example, they started making in-house all their almond milk, and used the byproducts in their baked goods.
A factor from the very beginning was ethically-sourced coffee beans, which, while expensive, take a little of the guilt out of the morning cup of Joe, as well as offering more control over quality at every step of the supply chain.
The demand for more and better beans led to branching out into their own local roaster, Ascendo.
Now the expanded Bello Mundo is going through another round of changes, as a new, second location is preparing to open in Los Osos in the former Starbucks space on LOVR at Fairchild Way. With expansion comes a name change. All three, Belo Mundos — the original shop, the roaster and the new Los Osos shop — will now go by “Ascendo.”
Regulars saw some changes overnight on Feb. 16 as new cups and a new logo heralded the rebrand.
“All of the coffee will be the same at both locations,” said Stauf, adding that on a 100-point grading scale, their beans come in at 80-90. “High quality,” he said, “single origin, chosen with lots of care.”
As for the Los Osos expansion opportunity, that came out of the blue with the site’s landlord preferring to offer the spot to a local family business after Starbucks moved down the street to a new space.
“It took a while to get our first spot going,” Stauf said. “ Five years of striving and growing, so we’re not reinventing the wheel. The important part is that we put people and the community first.”
In fact, he said, their passions can be listed as people first, and coffee a close second.
That show’s in their hiring practices which are unusually democratic, as more people are added to staff the new location. All potential staff must pass the review of their peers, work side-by-side with potential co-workers, and pass a vote of the team.
As with the SLO shop, there’s a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat and tears going into the Los Osos Ascendo. Staff and friends who happen to be handy have been doing the interior remodel themselves.
“We’re going to have a full kitchen in both locations,” he explained, noting that while larger than the first Bello Mundo location, the Los Osos shop will be a smaller version of what they’re doing in SLO. There’s a communal table, space set aside for socializing, an area to sit at the bar where regulars are known to chat up the baristas, gallery space for local artists and yes, even a place for those working on computers and tablets.
Something the Los Osos spot has that SLO doesn’t will be an outdoor, dog-friendly patio, which should be completed and opened sometime soon.
The Los Osos Ascendo location is tentatively scheduled to open the first week of March. Until then, they’re open in SLO at 974 Monterey St., Mondays-Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 7:30 to 8 weekends.
By Camas Frank

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