The Coast News Group
Ascend Coffee owner Erin Harper prepares drinks at the shop’s La Costa location, which opened in January. Photo by Laura Place
Ascend Coffee owner Erin Harper prepares drinks at the shop’s La Costa location, which opened in January. Photo by Laura Place
CarlsbadCarlsbad FeaturedCommunityFood & WineNewsSan Marcos

Ascend Coffee moves to Carlsbad, says goodbye to San Marcos (for now)

REGION — Over its more than 30 years of operation, the little coffee shop at San Marcos Restaurant Row has weathered countless changes, from new owners to new names, while always maintaining its strong following of loyal customers.

Today, the coffee shop previously known as Mocha Marketplace, Old Cal Coffee Company, and now Ascend Coffee Roasters is undergoing its biggest transition.

Ascend Coffee has moved to a new location in La Costa, which opened in January. The shop also saw the closure of its longtime home along San Marcos Boulevard in late February due to the planned redevelopment of Restaurant Row. This season of change is bittersweet for owner Erin Harper but also one of hope. 

“We had so many people come by and give us well wishes and let us know they were gonna continue to support us,” Harper said of the San Marcos closure. “It was a nice close to this chapter.” 

Ascend Coffee owner Erin Harper is pictured during the shop’s last week of operation at San Marcos Restaurant Row, before it closed on Feb. 29. Photo by Laura Place
Ascend Coffee owner Erin Harper is pictured during the shop’s last week of operation at San Marcos Restaurant Row before it closed on Feb. 29. Photo by Laura Place

The business originally opened at Restaurant Row in 1990 as Mocha Marketplace and then became Old Cal Coffee Company in the early 2000s. Harper came to work as a barista during this time and would remain there for over a decade, eventually becoming a partner in the business.

Harper bought Old Cal Coffee from shop owners Giovanna and Chris Garcia in 2022. By then, she had been running her own roasting business called Ascend Coffee Roasters for two years and decided to operate the coffee shop under the Ascend name. 

For a while, Harper frequently ran between the San Marcos and new Carlsbad locations while finding time to roast. With the closure of the old site, Harper is now focused on getting the new La Costa shop off the ground at the Los Coches Village shopping center.

Visitors to the new shop will find a more modern look than the Old California style of the previous location, but the same delicious menu of coffee drinks, pastries, and a variety of breakfast and lunch food options, including burritos, toasts and smoothie bowls.  

Stacey Lopez serves coffee to a customer at Ascend Coffee in La Costa on Tuesday. Photo by Laura Place
Stacey Lopez serves coffee to a customer at Ascend Coffee in La Costa on Tuesday. Photo by Laura Place

“I’m kind of in a position right now where the La Costa store is so new that we’re just trying to get a cash flow going,” Harper said. “I’m trying to do this grassroots effort — I don’t have a ton of investors or anything, it’s just me. I’m just figuring it out one day at a time.” 

Roasting was a hobby that quickly turned into a passion and eventually formed the basis for the Ascend brand. Harper, who describes herself as a foodie, said it started with her desire to develop a high-quality craft dark roast.

Now, Ascend sells two dark roasts, one medium, one light, and a decaf option. Each uses single-origin beans from different locations around the world, including Costa Rica, New Guinea, and Ethiopia, which are roasted in San Marcos. 

“We really take them from start to finish, from the green coffee that is uncooked to the espresso that’s in your cup. We really take care of it every step of the way,” Harper said.  

Ascend Coffee’s new location opened in Carlsbad’s Los Coches Village in January. Photo by Laura Place
Ascend Coffee’s new location opened in Carlsbad’s Los Coches Village in January. Photo by Laura Place

Looking ahead, Harper said she has her sights set on further expansion in North County and an eventual return to San Marcos, where her love for coffee began. There are plans in the works for a drive-thru location near Palomar College and another potential site in Vista. 

“We hope to spread our wings in North County,” Harper said. 

Ascend Coffee is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3231 Camino de los Coches. Customers can also visit ascendroasters.com to order food and drinks for pickup or order bags of whole-bean coffee for home delivery. 

Leave a Comment