Written By: Karishma Sinnott
When my family moved into San Elijo Hills almost twelve years ago, our community was a shadow of what it is now. There was the promise of great things — giant signs that promised a grocery store, a school, a town center, a cafe. When you ran out of milk, there was no Albertsons, no ability to go “over the hill” to Ralphs, and the trek to San Marcos or Carlsbad was sometimes painful when all you were missing was a loaf of bread. But, there were signs, and the hope that something would come soon.
And the first thing to come was a little cafe, and we were so excited! It wasn’t much, but it was ours. I think it was called Cafe Moto. It was replaced by Peppertree Hills, and then Cafe REN. That spot has seen so many iterations of cafes, and none have succeeded.
Till now. Welcome to Cafe Stoked.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Vulovic, the owner of Cafe Stoked. By the time you read this article, Chris will be in the final two weeks of set up at the new cafe. She will furiously be cleaning the gorgeous hardwood floors, wiping down the dark chocolate granite countertops at the bar, placing fat candles in the outdoor patio, and stocking her brand-new shiny appliances. Chris has invested more than just money into Cafe Stoked, she has made the biggest investment of all — that of commitment to a community to which she belongs.
Chris Vulovic has worn many hats in her life — she is a devoted sister (to Charity Abelardo), a doting aunt. She has been a consultant, a CEO, a CIO, an author (I Love Food, available on Amazon), a caterer and now, the proud owner of a cafe. The path she has followed makes complete sense, and culminates in this vision that is coming to fruition as we speak.
Chris started in the technology industry in 1995, working primarily with small companies or companies in incubation, helping them grow into mature organizations. She has managed teams of 5 people to multinational teams of 170 people. Her work has taken her around the world — to Italy and France and India and Australia, until finally, after ten years in Australia, Chris came home.
“Is San Diego home to you?” I asked Chris, to which she replied, “Home is wherever my sister is.” If you read Chris’ book, it is clear that she is very close to her family, and the candid shots and stories behind the recipes makes that even more evident. She is also very connected to her niece and nephews (Alex, Aiden and Isabel), and in fact, it was her niece Isabel, who came up with the name Cafe Stoked.
The word “stoked” immediately brings up images of a warm fire being carefully stoked, embers being cajoled into giant flames. It also, in the lingo of our teens, is a term of intense happiness and joy. And Chris is hoping that Cafe Stoked will be your happiness and joy, your go-to place for a drink, a chat, an after school smoothie, a teacher’s lunch, a cup of excellent coffee or some morning grub. She hopes it will be “your local”, the place where people know your order before you say it, anticipate your child’s needs before they ask, and always have a smile and a chair open and ready for you when you walk in the doors.
I had the pleasure of walking through the cafe in July, when Chris showed me her ideas in print, and it was abundantly clear to me that she was making a huge investment in the cafe. Chris isn’t just changing paint and putting up a new menu, she has clearly thought through every step and phase, creating and innovating new ideas along the way.
For example, our children are going to be a huge part of Cafe Stoked. Tired of making school lunches? You can go online, order one lunch or a week’s worth, pay for it with a click of your smartphone, and stop by on the way to school for a grab-and-go lunch. Are you a teacher or a mom on the run in need of a quick bite? Email or text Chris, and your order will be ready to go the minute you set foot in Cafe Stoked.
If your children have Instagram accounts, Cafe Stoked will send them a coupon for an after-school smoothie or snack. A show of the coupon on their smartphone will buy them a discounted snack and a happy smile. And the beauty of all this is that you will always know what your children are buying, thanks to the software Chris is using, called Square.
Square will provide you the ability to give your children the equivalent of a gift card, and then allows you to see what they are purchasing with said card. They won’t be buying candy at Cafe Stoked, because there will not be a piece of candy in sight. What they will find is real, natural, healthy food, home baked desserts and pastries, thoughtful, balanced meals that are still fun. Gluten Free? No problem. Vegetarian? No problem. Carnivore? Yup, Cafe Stoked has you covered.
As I sat down with Chris, the friend in me was so excited at the prospect of another meeting place where I can sit down and chat with my favorite girls. The foodie in me was enthralled by her beautiful cookbook and fabulous recipes. The sister in me connected with the relationship that Chris and Charity share, the mother in me so appreciated all the effort and thought that is going into providing for the children of San Elijo. The San Elijo resident that I am is bubbling over at the thought of a community cafe, our local, a place to go where you will instantly feel at home, where the staff will know how you like your eggs, and that you don’t take milk in your coffee, and where Chris’ love of food and feeding people will bring an entire community together, to our local, Cafe Stoked.
Stoked? I am! See you there, on opening day!