San Diego native Nadia Zamora opened the La Mesa coffee shop in spring 2021 with a rosy goal in mind: Create a happy — very, very pink — space where customers can smile + enjoy life.
For #DrinkUpSanDiego, we sat down with Nadia (and her adorable 6-month-old son) to talk about her dreamy biz, the menu’s sweet treats (one signature drink was created by her niece), the support of her community, and the mood-boosting power of pink.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Pink Rose Cafe?
A: I have a lot of sisters, and we’ve always been very girly. I thought, ‘Why don’t I do something where my sisters and I would want to go hang out — where I know a lot of girls would want to come, dress up, have fun, have something really cute.’ Pink is my favorite color and I love roses, so I incorporated [the two things].
Q: Describe the vibe inside your cafe?
A: What I strive for is happy. My goal here is, if you’re having a bad day — maybe you didn’t get the best news — or you’re celebrating something, you come in here and the color pink, there’s something about it that just makes you smile. It changes your atmosphere and your perspective on things. Even if it’s just for a while, I want the vibe to be happy, chill, relaxed — take pictures, create memories.
Q: Tell us about some of your drinks.
A: For the summer, we created lemonades. We have a Pink Rose Lemonade, a Rose + Lavender — which is my favorite — it’s refreshing and we top it off with roses. Keeping to my culture of being Mexican, we have a Chamango Lemonade, so it’s made with chamoy + Tajín, with the mango slices.
Our signature drink is the Pink Rose Latte. I like that one because it’s vegan (soy). It’s tea with strawberry hibiscus + rose petals and we do a vanilla rose powder with rose syrup.
Pro tip: Try the Unicorn Lemonade created by Nadia’s 7-year-old niece, Hailey: A pink lemonade with blue butterfly tea that, when mixed, turns the drink purple. Topped with a ball of colorful cotton candy, Nadia says it’s the shop’s No. 1 seller. 🦄
The sweet story? Hailey was at the shop one day and Nadia asked her for drink ideas. The kiddo was all about sprinkles, cotton candy + rainbows. Nadia got to work on the recipe — at one point it even had edible glitter, but it was too extra. ✨
Q: How do you source your coffee?
A: We do everything through Ryan Bros Coffee — they’re great people and we love them. Everything is sourced directly through them, and they’re down in Barrio Logan.
Q: Of all the San Diego-area communities, why did you choose La Mesa as the place to open your shop?
A: We found ourselves living in La Mesa for a short time. I wasn’t really familiar with La Mesa — I grew up in southeast San Diego, the Barrio Logan area. So, we never really came to La Mesa, but when we found ourselves living here, we were like, ‘Wow, this is a nice little village. Everyone knows each other; it’s a tight-knit community.’
Unfortunately, we went through the civil unrest [in 2020] — which turned into a riot — our windows were broken, we had equipment stolen. At one point, I told my husband, ‘I’m walking away, I don’t want to ever drive down La Mesa Boulevard. It was tragic; it looked like a scene out of a war zone. The next day, we knew we had to come back at 6 a.m. to board up and, to our surprise, our neighbors had already boarded up for us; they were already sweeping up the glass, cleaning the graffiti.
I was really impacted by that. It still took us almost 11 months after that to open and we were like, ‘Yeah, we picked the right place.’ Had it been somewhere else, with the tragedy that happened — I don’t think we would’ve made it. It’s a special community.
Q: Being a local, how would you describe San Diego as a coffee order — if you could fit the city into a cup?
A: I think it would be something happy, like a coffee called the “Sunkissed.” In San Diego, there’s always something to do and coffee is a lifestyle here. Add an espresso shot to keep you going during the day, because there’s always something to do.
Q: What’s the last local business you went to?
A: Here in La Mesa, we really like City Tacos. We recently tried Swami’s Cafe. I want to make it a point to try all of the places in La Mesa. And in broader San Diego — we recently went to Pizzo’s, they have great pizza and pasta. We just try to make sure we’re supporting local businesses — being intentional about where our money is going.
Q: How would you describe San Diego’s coffee culture?
A: It’s a growing business. Coffee brings people together and it’s something a lot of people drink. And I think people are open to tasting different coffee outside of Starbucks. There’s a big community out there for it.
Q: What do San Diego business owners have in common?
A: I think San Diego is really big on small businesses; people take pride in their business.
Q: After someone visits Pink Rose for the first time, what do you hope they walk away feeling?
A: I hope they feel like they want to come back. We strive to make a customer’s visit very welcoming, so we hope they leave feeling refreshed, lighter, ready to face the day. We have a lot of mommy and daughter dates that come, so it’s a special visit.
Q: How important is it to you to keep Latin-inspired items on your menu, and for people to know this is a Latina-owned business?
A: For me, it’s extremely important. I’m an immigrant — English is my second language — and I’m the only Latina business on this block. I don’t take it lightly. It’s a lot of responsibility. We have kids from southeast San Diego who come out and do their field trips. I get to connect with them, tell them to dream big.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like San Diego to know about your business?
A: I’m very humbled by the support we’ve received — it’s overwhelming. We don’t take it lightly. We know that without the customers, we wouldn’t be here, so we strive to give the best experience. Everything we do, we do it with a lot of heart. Our Mexican culture is very family-oriented and we love hosting, so being able to host San Diego — it’s humbling and just really nice. I tell the girls, ‘Treat this as if you were inviting someone to your house.’