Ginger Dimapasok - Café 86
Ginger Dimapasok is the Head Pinay in Charge at Café 86, which she co owns with her husband, James. She is also mom to Jayden and Lia J. Family plays a huge factor in Ginger’s life. From her parents’ turo turo place in Manila to her love for cooking and baking to their support in Ginger’s pursuit of culinary school in the US, Ginger had a strong foothold in family and food. Then she began a business partnership with her husband, together they wrote a business plan, and they created Café 86. A good spot for desserts and specialty drinks, Café 86 flawlessly incorporates Filipino flavors like ube, pandan, calamansi or mango into their menu items. The rich purple hue of ube being such an eye catching color and making their Ube Truffles and Ube Monster Milkshake popular items on their menu.
As an entrepreneur and mother, Ginger is always working towards finding that balance and setting priorities helps. Having grown with the business, her children understand that Café 86 is part of their lives and have even become involved in it. Ginger’s also surrounded herself with fellow Entrepinayship sister, a support system that uplifts! Her spirit can be felt in what she has create. Café 86 is now in their 5th year of business, with locations around Southern California and in Las Vegas, NV, and there’s more to come!
Were you always interested in food and working with food? And how did you create your career path?
I grew up with a Kapampangan mom and Bisaya dad who both loved to cook and loved good food. I was always that kid who was at the hip of my mom or our cook because I was so curious about how things were made. My parents actually owned a turo turo place outside our subdivision in Manila that we often hung out at, and next to that was a bakery! My love for baking and cake decorating started from that Bakery. They would let me sit there and watch the bakers work and decorate wedding cakes and let me eat the scraps. Since then, I have been so fascinated with the workings of a bakery!
I did a lot of baking at home for family and friends when I was growing up, but never really dabbled on the entrepreneurial side of things. I just loved sharing my baked goods with everyone! By the time I was a freshman in college, I realized school wasn’t for me, so I actually dropped out of college (much to my parents’ dismay), but surprisingly enough, it was as though my parents already knew back then what I was going end up doing in life… They actually allowed me to fulfill my passion for cooking by letting me go to culinary school in the US. After graduating, James and I got married and started a family. I did not like the absentee hours of working in the kitchen, so I ended up being a stay at home mom and just took care of the babies. I had short stints here and there working administrative jobs and some bakery jobs, but nothing long term.
When did you decide to take the leap in entrepreneurship and open Café 86?
In 2014, James and I joked about opening up a Boba shop in Chino Hills so he can just have his car meets for his AE86 close by. That’s the easy and fun story to tell, but the truth of the matter was that he felt stuck in the computer sales job he was in and wanted to do something for ourselves… something we had control of (or so we thought hahaha )… basically something to call our own and be able to pass on to our kids someday. The initial plan was to franchise a boba shop that was already existing, but James studied the business model and he did not like it, so then, we took that leap of faith and decided to write our own business plan for our own Café. Pretty much like writing our own story with an unknown ending... for now.
How do you choose which cities to have Café 86 locations? What is the biggest challenge in opening a restaurant?
Whenever we choose a location, we always look at demographic and find out how many Filipinos are actually in the area. We also look at factors like schools, hospitals, homes. We really want to keep a family oriented atmosphere within the stores so we really make sure the area is family friendly. Even our Las Vegas store is located off the strip and closer to where the locals are .
The biggest challenge in opening the café is getting funding. You can write the best business plan out there, but know that things will change and your budget will also change, so you will really need to have some sort of funding and some change for those unpredictable situations.
Have you always had support when working towards your dreams?
Looking back at my life, I was really blessed to have had parents who were supportive of my hobbies and interests (as long as they were good for me!) Like I mentioned, I think early on, they saw my love for cooking and baking and I think deep down they knew that someday, I would pursue something in the food industry and they let me do my thing back then… I mean, to be honest, I cooked a lot at home and baked almost every week … so, we all win! :D
How do you incorporate Filipino flavors in the Cafe 86 menu items?
Incorporating Filipino flavors in the menu was not too hard! Filipino flavors are so adaptable and marry well with other dessert applications apart from the traditional stuff. Whenever we eat out and try something we really like, we just figure out how to incorporate ube, pandan, calamansi or mango flavors in there! We also still have a deep love for traditional desserts and kakanin , so, on occasion, you will see some sort of traditional dessert in our pastry case!
What are some of your favorite ways to use ube?
Ube halaya is my ultimate favorite! Growing up, whenever we would take a trip to Baguio, the first thing I would ask my mom is for a jar of Ube Halaya from the convent… I think it was called Mountain Maid! I remember watching the nuns stirring huge vats of bright purple halaya and bringing home a warm bottle . No pandesal or skyflakes crackers needed; just me, the jar of ube and a spoon! Nowadays, my favorite dessert is the ube pop tart, because its pretty much straight up ube halaya and some macapuno that we stuff in a buttery crust .
What is your favorite part of the creative process of creating a dessert?
I love how our vision for a particular dessert evolves once we get everyone’s input at the bakery! It never ends up the way it was originally planned because we have so many people who love to eat and have so much good input to give, so we already know that we can conceptualize a particular dessert to be one way, but in the end, it evolves into something even yummier than originally planned.
What are some of Cafe 86's most popular desserts and drinks?
Café 86 has become really known for our “gateway ube drug”, the Ube Truffles. We have yet to meet a person who did not love the truffle! As for drinks, it would be our Ube Monster Milkshake and the Hibiscus Calamansi Iced Tea are definite crowd favorites!
Do you have a support system of fellow food entrepreneurs?
One of the greatest blessings I have stumbled upon during the process of building up Café 86 was meeting my Entrepinayship sisters. We are all pretty much doing the same things, but we never see each other as competition… but, instead, we see each other as partners and allies. We uplift each other, we vent with each other when we are frustrated, and we all sort of have our own strengths that allow us to be able to impart with each other bits and pieces of knowledge and advice that we can’t get from just anyone. I think it is so important for someone in this industry to find their tribe… people they can trust and be open with… and people with the similar core. It really helps especially on the really hard days when you feel no one understands what you are going through.
How do you find a balance between motherhood and entrepreneurship?
I think I am still working towards that balance, but at year 5 of the business, I did learn to set my priorities. My family will always come first above the business, but, at the same time, we all (my family) have to also come to terms with the fact that the Café is putting food at our table and a roof above our heads, so it is just as important and unfortunately, demands a lot of time and attention as well. My kids are now 11 and 9 and I would like to think that they are already beginning to understand the needs and demands of the café and they also know that if we do not give the café the attention it needs, things usually go wrong. In the beginning, because they were so small, I really struggled with finding that balance and there were nights when I would cry because of the guilt that I felt with spending so much time at the Café. Being that the both the café and my kids were in the “infancy/toddler stage”, they both needed attention… and I felt so split up. But things have gotten better. And every day is still a work in progress. I still have to divide my time between doing inventory, helping with homework and doing laundry and cooking dinner some nights, but it’s not always like that anymore and it also helps that the kids are now bigger and able to take more responsibility as far as chores are concerned and they even help out at the Café now!
Who/what is your biggest motivation?
My family is my biggest motivation. The end goal here is to be able to give my family a good and happy life. So, on those hard days, James and I would sometimes look at each other and pretty much ask “why are we doing this again???” And we have to focus on the prize, we have to remember the end goal and that all these hardships are temporary. And that we can do all things through Christ who provides us with the strength we need.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
We are currently finishing up construction of our new commissary and warehouse. I am excited to get moved in and have a bigger space to work in and possibly start working on an online store where we will be able to ship our products domestically! We are also scouting for our new location in San Diego. God willing, we would like to open this year! Stay tuned!
Photos courtesy of Ginger Dimapasok. Family photo and profile photo by RP Photostudios