Denise Belisle sells Evergreen Coffee Company, mulls what’s next

Longtime business owner and City Council hopeful Denise Belisle sold Evergreen Coffee Company — her beloved mom-and-pop coffee shop in Evergreen — fueling speculation about what’s next and whether she’s gearing up for another council run.

“I’ve certainly thought about it,” said Belisle, who finished third in a five-way primary race for the District 8 seat in 2016. “But my issue is, I have a 95-year-old mother who lives nearby in assisted living. I just really want to be there to take care of her and if I were to run right now, it’s not something I couldn’t do 100 percent. Maybe in four years, I’ll look at it again. We’ll see.”

Councilmember Sylvia Arenas will term out in 2024.

But Belisle, 64, who sold the coffee shop her family owned for nearly a decade in May, is eyeing a seat on a city commission. She previously served four years on the city advisory commission and is now active with Involved Evergreen, a neighborhood association started by former Vice Mayor Rose Herrera. Belisle said she might consider going into consulting.

Belisle said selling the Evergreen coffee shop was a tough decision, but like many small businesses, she felt crushed by the increasing costs of doing business in San Jose, primarily the city’s $15 per hour minimum wage. Belisle’s kids helped run the shop, but once they moved on to their own successful careers, she found herself grappling with mounting payroll costs.

“They couldn’t help as much,” Belisle explained. “When you have to start paying $15 an hour to people, it impacted my business. Without their help, it’s hard to make it work. Expenses were out of control and it was time for me to turn it over to someone who wanted to have it as a family operation, which is what I think it should be.”

It also became tougher to recruit employees, Belisle said,

Belisle sold it to a Cambodian couple, Borom Sun and Vicky, who own a donut shop in Fremont. They’ve vowed to keep the family-friendly vibe and high-quality espresso beans that regulars love, while adding a new flair — including a self-serve coffee bar. They might even stay open later, Belisle said.

But longtime Evergreen Coffee Company regulars might still see Belisle — who was a fixture behind the counter — around the beloved coffee shop.

“I get free coffee for life,” she laughed.

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