3019 Adams Avenue, North Park
A couple new coffee shops opened along 30th Street recently, though under very different circumstances. Hawthorn Coffee opened in late December on Adams Avenue, within a block of several popular businesses in a burgeoning pocket of North Park. Its neighbors include trendy eateries and cocktail bars, with a beer-centric seafood restaurant and ramen shop slated to open soon.
2920 Imperial Avenue, Grant Hill
In early January, Imperial Grounds opened four miles due south, on Imperial Boulevard, right along the border of Grant Hill and Logan Heights. While the area is home to a few budget-friendly restaurants, they’re widely spread out, scattered between tire yards and auto-parts recyclers.
There’s not another coffee shop within a mile in any direction, the nearest being a Starbucks. Beyond that, the only businesses serving coffee are a couple of gas stations and a McDonald’s. “There’s no coffee shops in that whole corridor along Imperial Avenue,” says co-owner Steven Williamson.
Conversely, within a mile of Hawthorn Coffee there are three coffee roasters, two gourmet donut shops, and no fewer than six traditional coffeehouses. Consequently, Hawthorn owner Dylan Redmond recognizes the need for his urban neighborhood café to distinguish itself, saying, “We wanted to offer something different.”
So, he’s opted to serve Flying Goat Coffee, a specialty roaster based near Redmond’s hometown of Sonoma. For local flavor, he also offers Foxy Coffee, the small roasting company started this year by coffee veterans Joshua and Hannah Bonner.
Redmond grew to love coffee shops as a barista when he was younger, but most of his business experience comes from managing bars. He says Josh Bonner offered advice about opening a coffee business, first as a fan dropping by to say hello during construction, then eventually as lead barista. “He is a ridiculously amazing barista,” Redmond says of the latte art champ. “He knows more about coffee than most people, so he’s been a great asset for us.”
In the meantime, Williamson and Imperial Grounds co-owner Michele Gonzalez are entirely new to coffee and have been seeking experienced baristas to supplement guidance offered by their roaster of choice, Café Moto. The couple stumbled into coffee when they moved their vintage retail business to Imperial Avenue last summer. A planned café in the space next door to their Ms. Vintage shop had the neighborhood buzzing, so when that fell through they decided to pick up the project themselves. “There was a big need for it in the community,” says Gonzalez.
“A coffee shop is a place in the community where people can meet and hang out,” adds Williamson, “and we didn’t have anything like that.”
Four miles away, Redmond echoes the sentiment. “I think of coffee shops as sort of a public area, a place for people to hang out and talk.” Both businesses were built out by their owners, who also work in the shop, and both have already attracted neighborhood regulars since opening. But what a huge difference geography can make.