Dark Horse coffeehouse gallops toward expansion

Hoa Quách

A favorite Normal Heights coffeehouse is expanding.

Daniel Charlson, owner of Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on Adams Avenue, recently opened a Lake Tahoe location and soon plans to open coffeehouses in North Park and Golden Hill in September and October, respectively.

Daniel Charlson (right) opened Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on Adams Avenue in 2013. His brother, Bryan (left) later joined him in his venture. (Photo by Hoa Quach)

Daniel Charlson (right) opened Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on Adams Avenue in 2013. His brother, Bryan (left) later joined him in his venture. (Photo by Hoa Quach)

Charlson, 32, said he and his co-owner and brother, Bryan Charlson, chose to expand their business because of their employees.

“The only reason we are expanding is because we have so much potential in our employees,” said Charlson, who opened his original location in 2013. “I want to set them up and have them insert their personalities into Dark Horse. Without them there’s no way we’d be expanding.”

Faith in their employees is what prompted the recent opening of a Lake Tahoe location. Charlson said his first employee, Drew, moved to Truckee, a small town near the lake, and from there they decided to open a coffeehouse.

“We found a spot and we opened a Dark Horse,” Charlson said. “Few things in life work out so perfect.”

The North Park location will be on 30th and North Park Way, and the Golden Hill location will be situated at 811 25th Street. The company is unique in that it doesn’t offer espresso drinks. Rather, it offers customers handcrafted coffee with the beans roasted in-house.

But Charlson wasn’t always in the coffee business. He grew up building homes with his dad in Hawaii, then went on to earn his degree in audio engineering. He worked in marketing until he roasted his first batch of coffee while living in Seattle.

“I decided to end my 10 year quest to become a working audio engineer and switched gears to coffee,” said Charlson, who moved to San Diego in 2011. “The day I roasted my first green coffee in a pot I was on the hook.”

A part of him and his brother always knew they’d opened their own business though.

“We are always talking about business ideas,” Charlson said. “This was the first one I pulled the trigger on. The biggest challenge was making the leap. Once I was committed, it was sink or swim. I’m good at swimming.”

“Working with my brother is my dream,” Charlson said. “We are our best versions of ourselves when we are together.”

Aside from working with Bryan, Charlson credits Dark Horse’s success its team mentality.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that Dark Horse is no longer mine. My co-workers and I are Dark Horse, and it’s so much better that way,” Charlson said. “We collaborate, we argue, we laugh. Together, we are doing something special that our customers enjoy and cherish.”

Dark Horse is currently looking to hire roughly 15 people for its locations in North Park and Golden Hill. For more information, visit

—Hoa Quách is an award-winning writer based in San Diego. She can be reached at

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