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Magic Johnson Starbucks Closes After Two Decades in Ladera Heights

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This location served as a central meeting spot for LA’s African-American community

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Magic Johnson Starbucks
The Starbucks at Slauson and La Cienega
Mona Holmes
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

The Ladera Heights Starbucks, also known as the Magic Johnson Starbucks, closed on Sunday. The news came as a surprise to the predominantly African-American community that frequented this particular store, which Magic Johnson opened 20 years ago next to the Friday’s on Centinela. This prime LA location was more than a place to get coffee, it was a cultural gathering spot for a community.

Regulars lovingly referred to the Magic Johnson Starbucks as “Starblacks,” and was a place where mostly African-American faces gathered to openly discuss the arrest of Starbucks patrons, politics, work from laptops, take meetings, and play dominoes or high-level chess. Some came everyday to see familiar faces, which included retirees, creatives, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. It was commonplace to hear locals affectionately share details about family, activities, and friends.

According to L.A. Taco, the area was getting a bit crowded for the coffee chain. A drive-thru Starbucks opened less than a year ago only two blocks over on La Cienega and Centinela. There’s even a Starbucks inside the Ralph’s grocery store. Clearly one had to go, but neither have the same feel or space as the Magic Johnson Starbucks, with minimal or nonexistent seating. USA Today asked Starbucks about the closure, and a spokesperson suggested the company could “better serve more of the community by moving this store.”

Earvin “Magic” Johnson opened this Starbucks location in 1998, which was the area’s first corporate coffee arrival. Magic Johnson’s Starbucks will be impossible to replace, with its large outdoor seating, the soulful music choices, and the animated, connected crowd.