Sac State alumnus giving back to Sacramento, ‘one cup at a time’

Shadi Khattab brews coffee, builds community with Onit Coffee truck


Patrick Posuniak

Onit Coffee founder and CEO Shadi Khattab poses for a photo with the small business’ staff on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. The coffee truck is located in the parking lot of Precision M.D. in Elk Grove, CA.

Chanelle Muerong and Anastasia Sher-Jones

Plopped in the parking lot of a cosmetic surgery office and a soon-to-be gym is a big black truck with bubblegum-pink arrows swerving across both sides and a banner that reads: “#SACRAMENTOPROUD,” with “By the city, for the city, to serve the city” underneath. 

The truck is one of only a few in Sacramento, serving up locally-roasted coffee among an array of other menu offerings like protein shakes, smoothies, lemonade and even vegan and sugar-free items. 

Onit Coffee has been brewing up a storm when most small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. To top it off, the minority-owned coffee truck offers something sorely needed during one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression: community. 

Owner and CEO Shadi Khattab said he has donated $1,000 to the Sacramento Food Bank since Onit Coffee opened for business in early March. He also partnered with Sacramento Street Medicine to donate supplies and coffee to people without shelter, and plans to continue working with local non-profit organizations such as My Sister’s House as part of Onit Coffee’s mission. 

Khattab, who graduated with a business degree from Sacramento State in 2018, started Onit Coffee as a business project for one of his entrepreneurship classes. 

“It was something that I felt would motivate the youth, the fellow alumni and students and staff on campus,” Khattab said. “I was going to hire a lot of students from Sac State, name a drink after The Hornets and really kind of honor the university that made my dreams come true and prepared me to take on this business endeavor.”

Khattab had plans to partner with University Enterprises to allow the truck on campus, but when COVID-19 hit, all of Onit Coffee’s events and potential contract with Sac State were canceled. 

Khattab originally planned to use the truck as a marketing tool to bring business to his permanent location, which he plans to build on a lot near Howe & Marconi Avenue. For now, he’s serving coffee out of the truck in the parking lot of Precision M.D., a cosmetic surgery center run by his family in Elk Grove.    

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Gisel Rodriguez, barista at Onit Coffee, takes an order from a customer Sunday, Sept. 20th, 2020. Shadi Khattab’s company commits itself to public outreach, frequently hosting fundraisers for the local community. (Patrick Posuniak)

Khattab said his family and heritage plays a big role in shaping Onit Coffee’s mission, “Impacting lives, one cup at a time.” Khattab said while money is one aspect of the business, giving back to the Sacramento community through non-profit work is what sets Onit Coffee apart from other coffee shops. 

“I’m an immigrant from Syria,” Khattab said. “I came to this country with nothing but my family.”

Khattab said many Syrian people are refugees, and said he recognizes that he may have been a refugee as well if his family had not left the country when they did. 

“I resonate more with people of color because I understand the struggles that they’ve been through,” Khattab said. 

Khattab said he has faced discrimination growing up in America being Middle Eastern and Muslim.

“My mother wears the hijab,” Khattab said. “I faced that growing up, the bullying, the discrimination. But it made me stronger, it made me who I am today.”

Khattab said he is determined to set Onit Coffee apart from other coffee shops by empowering minorities and focusing on equal opportunity for his crew. 

“When I look at the city of Sacramento, unfortunately there are a lot of coffee shops that hire predominately white folk, or only promote white individuals to management,” Khattab said. “With my team, I’m very big on diversity and empowering minorities.”

One of the original employees, Gisel Rodriguez, said she is excited to be part of Onit Coffee because of Khattab’s motivational spirit. Rodriguez said she has seen a noticeable increase in customers in the few months since they’ve been open. 

“Once we started getting ahead of our social media, people started finding us and it was so awesome,” Rodriguez said. “Now people come and it’s their spot, it’s cute.”  

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Gisel Rodriguez takes orders from customers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 at Onit Coffee, a business venture owned and operated by Sac State alumnus Shadi Khattab. (Patrick Posuniak)

Rodriguez said focusing on quality drinks and advertising techniques has helped get the word out. Onit Coffee went from making $50 a day to nearly $2,000 a day in a matter of months, Khattab said.

Rodriguez said that Onit Coffee’s slow start allowed the employees enough time to perfect the recipes and get started with delivery services such as DoorDash.

Kilana Eugenio, who visits the truck once or twice a week, said she prefers Onit’s coffee over Starbucks because it feels like the workers care more. 

“I come here like once or twice a week now,” Eugenio said. “It’s not just a coffee shop where you have to get coffee. You can go with your friends that don’t like coffee. It’s nice that they have lemonades and stuff.” 

Onit Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Precision MD Cosmetic Surgery Center, at 9250 Big Horn Boulevard.