Groundwork Community Spotlight

Groundwork Community Spotlight

What makes Groundwork so special (besides our amazing organic coffee) is our love for community. Altruism is at the heart of all we do – from creating strong relationships with our farmers, to fostering inclusive teams in our cafes, to reinvesting our local communities and cooperative partners. Our customers close this loop by uniquely contributing to the Groundwork community and beyond. Our Community Spotlight celebrates those of you who truly exemplify the Groundwork spirit. First up…

Samuel Lopez, owner of Ninety-One Good Old Days Clothing

When I walked into Groundwork on Traction Ave., Sam (a regular there) was already sipping his go-to iced vanilla latte. I came to interview Sam about his new activewear clothing company, Ninety-One Good Old Days, and his backstory basically wrote this Community Spotlight itself. 

Sam’s clothing brand represents his tireless grind and how dreams can become reality, no matter your background. Before Ninety-One G.O.D., Sam worked two jobs and hit the gym at the quiet hours of dawn – where he had a lot of space to think.

“My mind would always run about what I can do to create some type of income or company where I can be my own boss,” he said. 

Sam was always an imaginative kid and missed having a creative outlet, so the idea of selling hoodies popped into his head.

“One thing led to another and I ended up legitimizing everything. I went the full nine yards.”

Sam filed his LLC in February 2023, then hit the ground running creating social media content and designing his first drop, The Rookie Collection.

Ninety-One G.O.D. was created to motivate and inspire self-belief. 

“I dreamt about it and I turned it into reality,” Sam said about Ninety-One G.O.D.

He aims to convey this inspiration especially to people who grew up like him; in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood of Baldwin Park. 

“The stats are really, really stacked against you,” he said about his neighborhood.

His parents immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles and raised nine kids together. While facing racial discrimination, language barriers, and financial struggles, Sam’s parents maintained an incredible work ethic and kept their kids out of the gang and drug culture that prevailed in his neighborhood. 

In his own way, Sam is continuing his mother’s legacy: she made a living by tailoring and making clothes in their garage. Sam wants his legacy to make his parents proud. 

“My struggle, my background, and my family is what inspires me to push my brand and to work hard,” he said. “I have no room for excuses or to ease up, or to complain.” 

As Sam progresses in his fitness journey and clothing brand, he’s becoming an inspiration to people around him.

“I'm just a normal guy,” Sam says. “I have two kids and work two jobs. But when they see me generating all my content, when they see me creating stuff, people get inspired.”

He plans to drop women’s and kids’ collections (with design help from his daughter), as well as a podcast to tell his story.

 “My whole aim is for somebody who was like me to hear it and be inspired,” he said about the podcast. 

Sam is the epitome of “doing the groundwork.” 

Not only does he hustle, but he bleeds compassion and positivity. Sam works for LA County facilitating new project-based housing with homeless service providers. He also works at People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) as a case manager for clients with severe mental health or substance abuse issues. He helps clients get more than mental health services and housing by making a point to share his optimism, humor, and hope for a better tomorrow. His profession isn’t easy, but it humbles him.

Clocking into his county job in the morning and working at PATH at night, Sam somehow finds time to work out and manage Ninety-One G.O.D.

“That's why I'm so passionate about my brand,” Sam said. “I'm not just telling somebody to hustle…I'm doing it.” 

From designing clothes, to working out materials and technicalities, to running social media and networking, Sam nearly does it all. Two of Sam’s friends and his cousin help shoot and edit content, too. 

“I really don't care if it sells a lot, if it makes it big. I just want to create something to know that I created something for myself,” he said. “I find a lot of fulfillment and peace in that.”

Finding a home base at Groundwork Traction 

Sam discovered Groundwork through a client at PATH. Sam was setting up an assessment meeting with a new client, who told him, “meet me at this coffee shop – 811 Traction,” Sam said. “From the very moment I walked in, I remember feeling a chill, welcoming, warm vibe.”

He remembers ordering either a Bitches Brew or Black Gold – which became his go-tos for a while. Sam and that client met at Groundwork for all of their follow-up meetings.

“It literally was the coffee that hooked me and the ambiance of the location,” he said. “This became my own field base.”

Now, Sam associates Traction with working hard. He orders a coffee (and maybe an almond croissant or breakfast burrito), sets up his laptop, and gets to work.

Written by
Melina Devoney
Barista Blogger