Small Business Spotlight: 1888 Center

Photos courtesy of Chloe Padilla photography

Personal instagram: @chlopadillaa

Photography account: @chloepadilla

Nestled in the heart of Old Towne Orange lies a tiny little shop unbeknownst to many common passerbys. It is easy to simply drive by it, but once you come in, you are instantly entranced and cannot stop coming back.

1888 Center has done a phenomenal job at bringing a community together through a love of coffee and the written word. They have dug deep into the souls of Orange County natives, with much of their customer population discovering them through word of mouth. This small establishment houses both a coffee shop and a bookstore, bringing a modern twist to the age old idea of “nonprofit organization”.

1888 Center brings back the sense of community to Old Towne Orange while also catering to the younger audience as well. Their proximity to a university and location within a college town has allowed for 1888 Center to become a gathering place of both longtime residents and college students.

By creating a coffee shop and a bookstore in one establishment, 1888 Center and Contra have combined two timeless loves of both modern day millenials and the older generation. In doing so, they have evolved to cater the needs of the community and to support a place of gathering, of dialogue, of art, and of good coffee.

Free to Dream had the chance to talk to Trevor Allred of 1888 Center:

1. What has been the greatest challenge as a small business? How do you feel this contrasts to larger businesses?

Being a nonprofit, we're much more dependent on community participation and support, so it can be difficult collecting enough energy for all the programs we want to do. For a larger, more established company, I imagine that's less of a struggle.

2. How do you feel the landscape of your target audience is changing?

Our publishing arm, for example, is a direct response to a change in our target audience. We sell books, but we also publish novellas, a shorter shorter read but still rich and captivating. This became a focus after releasing people simply have less time to read a book. We make that easier by publishing award winning novellas.

People also are turning more and more to audio content, so we made a podcast network to help share the wealth to more.

3. What would you say your "mission statement" is? What do you feel you offer to your community?

Let me quote our mission directly, in fact ;) "Our goal, as a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultural heritage and literary arts, is to provide our diverse neighborhoods with curated content and lifelong learning programs that are educational and entertaining."

Simply said, we offer a place that can unite people around some of the most basic needs known: a place of belonging and connection through storytelling, and we'll also teach you something amazing along the way.

4. What has been the most rewarding part of your mission?

Orange County has had a long run of a reputation that it is artless and banal. Meeting people and sharing our mission has given people a sense that things are changing and that the energy, that has been happening across this region, can organize to make this a place of culture and arts. As the Community Manager for 1888, I get to be a driver of that impact, and it's wonderful to see people's minds change and believe in the arts.

5. Do you have any current campaigns/projects? Could you explain these?

We are in the midst of something incredible right now. We are taking our popular online publishing series, Why We Write, on tour through Orange County as a series of events. There are three events in total, each will be recorded live for a podcast series, but we are taking submissions from the public to explain why they write. Each essay is only 500 word maximum, so it's easy to work through but can really deliver a punch. There's more info here -

We're also accepting novella manuscripts for our annual Plaza Literary Prize until April 30th -

6. What are some past projects you have done that you feel have made a difference in your establishment?

We have recently pulled our Summer Writing Project. It was a summer long writing contest: writers would publish a chapter of a novella (we really like those) per week, and readers would give feedback (kill him off, I love her already, etc.). The completed stories that generated the most community were submitted to a jury, and we published the winner. Incredible. This was a worldwide writing event that produced some great stories: The Goldfish, Last One to the Bridge, to name a few.

We pulled it to make room for the 2.0 version (yeah, it's getting better than that). But we'll release that when the time is right :)