Jean Paul Leguy will serve the last cup of his infamous café au lait and the last coveted almond croissant at his eponymous coffee and pastry shop, Jean Paul’s Goodies on Aug. 9, ending a 35-year run and leaving a hole in the morning routine of many locals.
With a character some call eccentric and others call rude, Leguy – known universally by his customers as Jean Paul — has over the years garnered a large contingent of staunch supporters who love him, as well as detractors who love to hate him. Few who have experienced his customer service, or lack thereof, remain indifferent.
A flyer on the counter of the North Laguna coffee shop describes his pending retirement. It reads, in part, “R.I.P. Jean Paul’s Goodies, Born: July 15, 1980 – Dying: August 9, 2014. Will Be Kicking All Of You Out.”
The good-natured narrative that follows describes Leguy as a “leader of battle in multiple coffee wars” and “champion vs. the evil Starbuck’s Empire.” It mentions a “final viewing” on Aug. 9 to be attended by loving fans “who will now be forced to purchase coffee somewhere else and actually have to order it the way they like it.”
“JP’s Goodies was preceded in death” by Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Starbucks, among others, the notice says, a nod to the coming and going of outlets by the two coffee chains in the building opposite Jean Paul’s.
Yelp reviews abound that corroborate the missive’s reference to the proprietor’s “uncanny ability” to fill his house with regulars while sending away the uninitiated with an abrupt “get out!”
Aficionados rave and even wax poetic about “the best” coffee and pastries in Orange County. The coffee is strong, and Leguy rises in the wee hours to get his house-made buttery croissants, pains au chocolat, chaussons aux pommes and other goodies in the oven in time for his early morning customers.
Not everyone agrees about the comestibles. Some find the coffee too strong or bitter. Others say they’re not enamored of the baked treats. No one denies the baker’s curmudgeonly demeanor, and almost everyone offers advice, complaints or caveats about interactions with the proprietor himself.
Rule number one: Do not evoke Starbucks, or you will be asked to leave in an abrupt manner, as noted above. Do not attempt to order a latte, mochaccino or other concoction typically associated with Starbucks. Stick to coffee, espresso or cafe au lait (which is to say half and half) – one size fits all – no ventis or grandes. Do not admit to purchasing a coffee from Starbucks and do not ever, ever walk in with a Starbucks cup in hand, or your ignominious, empty-handed departure will be assured.
Yelp reviewers report being reduced to tears by tongue lashings after picking up a latte at the Starbucks inside of the neighboring Pavilions and then unwittingly wandering into Jean Paul’s for a pastry go with. Big mistake.
Almost any customer referring you to Jean Paul’s will also offer unsolicited suggestions on proper comportment to avoiding the proprietor’s ire. After all, he’s known as “the coffee Nazi.”
“If it weren’t for yelp reviews giving me a heads up about the protocol here, I would have probably been yelled at,” says Grace W.
Erica U. was grateful for the forewarning to order quickly and pay cash, saying, “If you are prepared for the protocol here, you will have a great experience.”
Maybe they read Deanna W’s warning to walk in, order quickly, and “get the heck out” without asking any questions. And yet she’s among the supporters. “Yes, the customer service is poor but somehow I find it tolerable and entertaining. He is an eccentric character and well…his pastries are just so delicious!”
Detractors disagree. Michael R. of Laguna Beach suggests the shop is for people who “love a faulty cup of coffee and raw verbal abuse in the morning.”
Even so, it can’t be ignored that Jean Paul’s Goodies has outlasted every other business in the Boat Canyon shopping center where his shop has become a local institution, drawing fiercely loyal customers despite a physical location almost entirely devoid of ambiance. “He’s a wonderful tenant,” according to a spokesperson for the building’s manager, Corona del Mar-based Realonomics Corp.
Local Festival of Arts and Sawdust Festival jeweler Lorraine Hornby recounted that once Jean Paul refused to sell her his last almond croissant, her favorite, because he was saving it for a regular he expected shortly. Disappointed, she understood. “He is gruff and prickly, but loyal to his customers,” she said, adding, “I will desperately miss his fantastic coffee!”
She will not be alone.