BELONGING

How Jean Shim of Rubies + Diamonds Creates Community in Hollywood

By

Alicia Briggs

– VOL. 12

Jean Shim has called LA her home since her early 20s. As a long-time veteran in the entertainment industry, Hollywood is a neighborhood close to her heart. So when a friend approached her in 2015 about launching a coffee shop in Hollywood, it made sense. “I really liked the feeling that we were bringing everything back to the heart of Los Angeles.” Today, her shop Rubies + Diamonds is a beloved part of the neighborhood, often at the center of what’s going on. 

Shim knows how small businesses can shape a neighborhood. She opened her first store, LAMILL, with her then-husband in 2008, in Silverlake. “Everybody then was like ‘go back to the Westside’ and I didn’t listen to any of it… I knew what we were bringing to this neighborhood was something special,” she recalls. “A few years later, Silverlake was voted the ‘hippest neighborhood in America.’ I was like, ‘We created that!’ We brought in a cafe-restaurant hybrid which brought in other restaurants… That’s what it’s like to bring that to a neighborhood.” 

When Shim started Rubies + Diamonds, she wanted to translate that sense of community to Hollywood. “Hollywood’s different because it’s studios—it’s not a neighborhood feel. At the same time, there’s a lot of people who believe in supporting small businesses, that’s the heart of it—[that] entrepreneur spirit,” She describes. 

When Shim started her first store, specialty coffee companies weren’t what they are today. “I came from entertainment and branding so when I saw that specialty coffee brands have no design or branding, I thought we could take this industry and bring it somewhere,” She recalls. “So when we created this look and brand, suddenly Stumptown and Intelligentsia upped their game… I’m proud to say I started that trend because we were the first ones to approach specialty coffee that way.” 

Image of Rubies and Diamonds Hollywood

Jean Shim takes pride in the fact that Rubies + Diamonds was at the forefront of elevating coffee culture in Hollywood.

Moving from LAMILL to Rubies + Diamonds was a big transition for Shim. “There are so many coffee brands now, so I did a concept that was very close to what I was wanting. What I want is caffeine content,” she explains. “Then we did a vegan drink (Coconut Sea Salt Coldbrew) because one of our baristas was vegan. It’s now our number one drink—everyone drives here just to get that one drink.” 

Shim feels very blessed that Rubies + Diamonds has remained in spite of pandemic lockdowns, which  threatened many small businesses around her. She credits much of her staying power to her supportive landlord. “If you’re able to have a landlord that works with you, that goes through the ups and downs—it’s everything.” 

She also credits her success to the supportive LA community. “We have so many regulars, everybody knows each other. It’s a place where you can gather. [And we’re all] hungry for [that connection] after [going] through the pandemic,” she recounts. 

Image of Rubies and Diamonds Coffee Hollywood

Although Rubies + Diamonds draws fans from across the city for its vegan coldbrew, locals love coming in to chat with the baristas.

Her passion for connecting people is what got Shim involved with Venn by hosting regular coffee activation events throughout LA for our Venn neighbors. But supporting her local community is nothing new to Shim. “A lot of vendors come in and say, ‘I’d like to showcase my brand here,’ and I go, absolutely. [My vendors] are all minority women in LA. So, it’s not just supporting me, as a minority or woman, but these small business owners too. Even the art that’s up is a local LA artist. It’s really important to support people on multiple levels here,” Shim explains. 

Shim wants her coldbrew to be accessible to all, no matter the neighborhood. By extending her coffee cart business throughout the city, she can bring LA neighbors together everywhere. 

“Everyone wants that feeling of community. I think LA can sometimes feel different to be in because it’s so big,” she says. “I think small businesses create that community.”