Brick and Bell: Your Friendly Neighborhood Coffee Shop

Your favorite friendly neighborhood coffee shop

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Spencer Ralph

On a busy Saturday morning, Brick & Bell employees are hard at work making breakfast for many hungry and tired locals.

Spencer Ralph, Staff Writer

“What can I get for ya today?” asks Peter Watry, the founder and owner of Brick and Bell Cafe, wearing his German National Football Team jacket. Looking to your right a friendly face appears; Mr. David Johnston enjoys a freshly brewed coffee. 

For most Bishop’s students, Brick and Bell is a necessity to survive. Whether it is the scones, açai bowls, lattes, or any of the other 108 items on the menu, students can’t get enough. 

Mr. Watry, who insists on being called Peter, is not originally from San Diego, but has been here long enough to call it his forever home. In 2003, he came up with an idea that would change his life forever. 

“Why not create a half-bakery half-coffee house?”

Then, Peter’s “life” really began. The first Brick and Bell opened on Silverado Street. The colonial-like building contrasts from the urban architecture engulfing it. From then on, it has pretty much been nonstop growth for Peter. He has not taken a day off for three years. “Each morning I wake up at 4 and put in the first batch of scones — it’s never too early to do what you love.”

Originally, most of the baking was done in the back kitchen, but the popularity and deliciousness of their food forced them to open an off-site bakery in 2008. What most people do not know is that the secondary location has been right in front of them the entire time. Take a few steps into the alleyway, Drury Lane, and it is in the office building to your left.

As a small local business, Brick and Bell endured the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had to let all 50 employees go,” said a hesitant Peter. He turned around and started to observe the fresh M&M cookies he made. It was obvious that this was a tough moment for him to look back on. “We didn’t have the savings to keep paying anybody. We had to permanently close one restaurant,” he concluded. After letting go of all of their employees, Peter and his partner—a former Brick and Bell barista—opened, baked, operated, and closed the store all by themselves. Peter was thrilled to report that almost all employees were able to come back and continue working for Brick and Bell.

Peter and his staff do it all for “the people of La Jolla.” In fact, La Jollans are “what [he] loves the most” about his community. When Peter and his partner were in their toughest times financially, the customers in the La Jolla community came to support. “Knowing that times were tough, one of them reached out and handed us ten thousand dollars…in cash!” Peter is still grateful for the gesture, but he had to return the money because of the federal grants being given out to businesses who need them.

Students like Lexi Black (‘24) have found comfort at Brick and Bell. “Happy or sad, it’s my go-to no matter what,” she said. “You can’t go wrong with their scones, they’re heavenly,” Lexi added. Scarlett Helliar (‘24), on the other hand,  thinks their cookies are “seriously the best thing you will ever have.” She continued, “Add a latte, and you’re set.”

Since opening back up after the first surge of COVID-19 cases, Brick and Bell’s business has been stronger than ever. Recently, their sales have reached over five times greater than when the business was first created. Other than coffee and baking, Peter and his employees have invested in a new business: candle making. At 12 p.m. everyday, the bakery on Drury Lane closes down for the day, and employees move in to make the candles. Currently their candle selection includes Pumpkin Apple Butter, Evening in Berlin, Apple Jack Peel, The Mood, and Santa’s Spruce.

According to Peter, one successful part about business is playing it like a game. “Guess what my favorite sport is…my business,” laughs Peter. In his sport, Peter has many competitors and rivals, but attempts his best to use tactics and defense strategies. “You never know what can get you in or out of the game,” he said.

Peter’s passion for Brick and Bell goes beyond baking, coffee, or candles. People are his real passion. Painted on the concrete stairs of their Silverado Street location, a bright blue and green heart says, “Stand here to feel the love.” 10,000 people have Peter’s number. Brick and Bell “doesn’t have customers, [they] have friends.”