People in Your La Jolla Neighborhood: Meet Brick & Bell Café owner Peter Schumacher

Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Peter Schumacher of Brick & Bell Café is not your everyday kind of guy. At age 50, he has the energy of a 20-year-old and the wits of one who has already lived many lives. For the past 14 years, he has been busy growing his restaurant empire from 928 Silverado St.

Where are you from?

“Well, I consider myself from La Jolla. I have a German background, but my life started June 23, 2003. That was the day we opened the café and I started a second life. I‘ve made my two managers partners, and they both bought houses, so we’re doing OK (laughs).

We’re very lucky to be very busy with thousands of customers a day and having two stores now. (The other location is at 2216 Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla Shores). But when I die, the girls that come in from The Bishop’s School today, would be 58, and they’ll call each other and say, ‘Hey, remember the Brick & Bell guy? He just died!’ They may not remember my name, but they’ll remember me. I love my life so much. I have a perfect life.”

How did you come up with the idea for Brick & Bell?

“I had a midlife crisis at 35. I don’t have any education at all, and I was working as a truck driver. I thought, ‘I need to start a business, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you don’t have any chances in life.’ So I got a job at a call center and a job at a coffee shop. I slept in my truck for a week because I wanted to save money. I didn’t get an apartment for two weeks, four weeks, and then three years later I had $140,000 in the bank.

In the meantime, I learned the coffee shop business slowly, and (the coffee shop that was here before Brick & Bell) had gone out of business ... not run very well. I called them up and said, ‘I’d like to buy your shop and give it a chance.’ ”

Why the name Brick & Bell?

“I thought, ‘Where would George Washington go to get a latte?’ I wanted a Colonial-type name. It was almost Brick & Whistle. I was trying to get a train whistle, like a giant one that I could ‘Choo, Choo!’ it on the roof, but I couldn’t secure it. So I bought a bell instead and went with Brick & Bell rather than Brick & Whistle.”

Are you married? Have kids?

“I’m not married, and I have no kids. It’s not for me. I’m greedy with my time. It’s great, because I have my two business partners, who are my best friends and my whole family in life.”

What do you do with your time?

“I work 120 hours a week here. I call it work, but it’s my life ... I’ll send an e-mail to a guy in Brazil in an hour. I have a meeting at 4 p.m. with a guy in Dortmund. I stay very late, but I love it. Did you ever play ‘SimCity’ (popular urban planning video game), where you build a city online? This is kind of the same thing, but it’s real. It’s so fun. The losses aren’t too fun, but the wins are fun.”

How do you organize your day?

“I get up at 3:15 a.m. every day of the year if I’m in town. But I’m trying to live a little longer, because the doctor said, ‘You’ll need to sleep a little more, you can’t go on five or six hours of sleep forever.’ So my business partners, who care about me a lot, found someone who opens for me at 3:15 a.m. and I get here at 4:30 a.m. Now, I ‘sleep in.’

Then, I run the café until 7:30 a.m., and then my partners take over the operations of the café and I go to my office. Today we’re working on employee stuff, which I hate.”

What values do you hold dear?

“Persistence! Persistence is talent, education … everything. It will always win. I’m trying to get better and realize what my weaknesses are. And then, what do you do once you find your weaknesses? Avoid them. Do what you’re strong at, and hire someone to do what you’re weak at. I’m pretty weak at cleaning my house, so I hire somebody.”

What are your wishes for the future?

“I’m going to make it to 100, but my doctor says, maybe at 97 you’re going to wish that you were dead. But we got a 97-year-old guy who comes to the café every day!

I would like to grow our business a little more, but I will also want to diversify. There’s a German wooden toy we’re trying to make, so I hope to start a toy-making company. We don’t want to be all coffee and bakery and food. When minimum wage hits $15, this is going to be a hard business. I believe a few places will go out of business, but we will stay.”

What’s something people don’t know about you?

“A lot of people know this, but some may not. I was fat. I weigh 250 pounds in 2009, and today I’m 174.5 pounds. The scones every day, every meal, it was a little much. I worked really hard at that.”

Do you exercise?

“I do. I went from 250 to 206 pounds. I wanted to look a little better than 206 pounds, but I couldn’t lose any more weight — just eating healthy, less Jack in the Box and less scones (although I eat scones every day, even just one little one).

(I started spinning twice a week and) I lost 38 pounds in 52 weeks. It’s so hard that spinning, and I go really hard. I also play in that soccer game at La Jolla High School every Wednesday. The games have been going on for nine years and they’re trying to kick us out.”

Do you like to watch movies?

“Yeah, I like all movies, because I eat popcorn in there. And whoever I go with knows I can’t share.”

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