Keba Konte began Pink Bay Espresso in his storage. Seven years later, it’s exhausting to think about Oakland with out Pink Bay, which has 5 places — together with a cellular espresso van — and is one thing of an establishment, drawing the City’s coolest and best-dressed, by no means making espresso tradition really feel elite or out of attain. That is the very intentional work of Konte, who’s set on reframing espresso — the prime quality, traceable stuff, that’s — as one thing everybody can and will get pleasure from, not simply the area of stuffy cafes in costly neighborhoods.
And it’s not simply espresso that Konte goals to make extra accessible: Earlier than coronavirus restrictions made in-person gathering troublesome, he additionally used his cafe areas to host panels and workshops for entrepreneurs of coloration. As Pink Bay grows, he needs to see different native companies developing, too.
As Konte instructed me throughout a dialog final yr, he’s targeted on making all of Pink Bay’s cafe areas “unapologetically welcoming to Black and brown folks: By placing Africa on the wall, by not exploiting our farmers with photos of them smiling with sweat and soiled palms that they’re indirectly benefiting from.” Africa is, fairly actually, on the wall on the Pink Bay roastery location on East tenth Avenue in Fruitvale, the place an unlimited dwelling define of the continent homes lush hanging vines. Earlier than the pandemic, mates gathered beneath this dwelling wall to drink espresso and catch up.
Whereas indoor seating stays paused on the roastery, Pink Bay’s new cafe, on the nook of Oakland’s Worldwide Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue, handily solves the issue of seating, and area. It’s housed in what was as soon as a financial institution, a towering three-story constructing that now options 11,000 sq. toes outfitted to host panel discussions on entrepreneurship for Black and brown enterprise homeowners, produce movies for Pink Bay’s YouTube channel, and end up full meals and heat baked items. In fact, there’s additionally a fantastic, smooth espresso bar, the place clients can get pleasure from an espresso, and through the suitable season, a yam latte — a tackle the pumpkin spice latte, solely extra scrumptious, on this author’s humble opinion.
Painted alongside the crown of the pillared constructing in daring white lettering is Pink Bay’s motto: “Stunning Espresso To The Individuals,” and these phrases are one thing of a guiding gentle because the enterprise expands. The towering area, crested with dozens of sculpted gold lion’s heads, would draw consideration in any neighborhood. It’s significantly notable that on this East Oakland neighborhood, what was as soon as a financial institution, and was later reincarnated as a examine cashing enterprise and a 99 cent retailer, now homes what Konte reckons is the one specialty espresso store alongside the 100-block stretch between right here and Lake Merritt. As a substitute of betting on an Oakland neighborhood the place third wave espresso retailers are already a dime a dozen, or setting down roots in a downtown San Francisco outpost, Konte selected an area simply blocks from Pink Bay’s roastery, and a 5 minute stroll from his own residence. Selecting this new location, Konte says, was “very intentional. We’re making an attempt to make specialty espresso and exquisite experiences extra accessible, and make this an area the place folks within the neighborhood and the neighborhood have entry to espresso experiences like this.”
After final week’s smooth opening, Pink Bay’s new location could have its grand opening as we speak, with a mariachi band at midday, the Afro-Brazilian drum troupe SambaFunk! at 3:30 p.m., and, in fact, espresso all day. Right here, Konte offers Eater readers a glance into among the most important design selections on this huge new area, and talks by way of his option to set Pink Bay’s new headquarters within the neighborhood he calls residence.
In 2014, the financial institution constructing was gutted by a fireplace, leaving the superstructure — however little or no else — intact. “This constructing has simply been a blight because it’s burned down. And fairly frankly, even earlier than it burned down, it was a blight,” says Konte. “It was not a welcoming area. And this nook actually simply deserves a lot extra.”
In the course of the cafe’s opening festivities, Konte is honoring the neighborhood’s many identities. The celebration, which began with Chinese language lion dancers from the Hung Sing Martial Arts Academy yesterday, and continues as we speak with a mariachi band and an Afro-Brazilian drum troupe, is a nod to the numerous communities which have constructed companies and houses alongside Worldwide Boulevard. “There’s no scarcity of noise within the neighborhood. From the sideshows in the midst of this intersection, to the loud ass trains, to all of the booming automobile stereos. However we simply type of wish to deliver a few of our personal noise,” says Konte. “So we’re going to have this collection of reside music performances. The factor about Worldwide Boulevard is that 20-plus years in the past, it was East 14th Avenue. However they modified the identify to Worldwide Boulevard, and I believe that’s most likely among the best names they may have given it. As a result of whenever you begin on this boulevard from the lake, you’re going by way of Chinatown, after which Southeast Asian communities, after which by way of Latinx communities, after which into the Black neighborhood, all the best way into San Fernando, into the whiter neighborhoods. I needed our opening celebration to mirror these cultures and people nations.” The opening celebrations are a illustration, says Konte, of the best way Worldwide Boulevard adjustments as you progress East from the lake, ultimately arriving at Pink Bay’s towering new residence.
Save for an 18-inch-walled concrete vault that weathered the hearth, the heart of the financial institution constructing have been utterly reimagined and up to date. The area was largely designed by Pink Bay’s Chief of Model Rachel Konte, who can be married to Keba. The open structure is shiny, fashionable, and stuffed with ferns and hanging crops. A protracted bar with an astounding variety of electrical retailers stretches alongside a wall of giant home windows, providing loads of seating for individuals who wish to keep for some time and benefit from the ambiance.
“So simple as it sounds, we’re offering a spot to sit down down, and have a cappuccino in a ceramic cup,” says Konte. “We’ve all been consuming out of paper cups for thus lengthy, in the course of the pandemic, that even the smallest issues like this are such a pleasure and luxurious.”
Proper now, the pastry case is full of items from partnered bakeries, however quickly, the brand new kitchen can be churning out fresh-baked hand pies, and welcoming in visiting cooks to host pop-up occasions. “[Our food program] continues to be in improvement. Within the meantime, we simply actually needed to get the doorways opened and launch the espresso program,” says Konte. “However we’re growing African hand pies — suppose empanadas, however a bit extra African- and Caribbean-inspired. Vegetarian, savory hand pies, that can be made right here and obtainable right here scorching, and we’ll have these obtainable in our different retailers as nicely.”
The pleasure and pleasure of the brand new area is, unsurprisingly, the espresso bar. Till now, Pink Bay places have all been constructed to suit the constrictions of tight or unconventional areas. There’s a espresso van, a small storage container long-established right into a espresso “field,” and the roastery location, set in a big warehouse. This area, as Konte places it, has “all of the wanted elbow room.” Meaning area for a protracted, stunning espresso counter. The centerpiece of the bar is a glowing Sanremo, an Italian-made machine programed in a different way for every of the cafe’s three totally different espressos. “Espresso is a science and an artwork. So we’re making an attempt to kind of slim the variables,” Konte says. With this machine, the baristas are in a position to “dial in that espresso expertise, and produce one thing that’s beautiful.”
When constructing out the lengthy counter, Keba and Rachel had been offered with three choices: wooden, stone, or concrete. They determined to go a distinct route completely. Impressed by the design of cafes in Copenhagen, they selected a linoleum. “It has simply an unbelievable array of colours,” Konte says. “It’s smooth to the contact, and an environmentally pleasant materials. Wooden will get type of sticky. Stone and concrete is at all times so chilly, and so exhausting.”
On the plum-colored linoleum espresso bar is a pourover espresso station, which Konte constructed himself. “I hand constructed it out of rebar and recycled wooden. It did end up fairly good.”
The cafe’s second and third ground are reserved for Pink Bay’s many behind-the-scenes and post-covid tasks. As Pink Bay continues to increase, six rooms of places of work will deal with administrative duties. This new area can even enable for Pink Bay to take its growth on-line. “I believe the area may be very, very photogenic. And so we’ll be capturing our personal how-to movies, and filming issues within the kitchen,” says Konte. When capability restrictions are lifted additional and indoor gathering is deemed safer, Konte says there can be extra in particular person occasions, together with latte artwork throw-downs.
The cafe’s third ground stays one thing of a thriller, with Konte hesitant to say precisely what is going to quickly occupy the 4000-square-foot area. He says Pink Bay is within the ultimate weeks of figuring out what he describes as a “vital partnership,” that can transfer into the area and act as a assist for entrepreneurs and fledgling companies which can be in want of a jumpstart.
“That’s at all times been a part of what Pink Bay is: being a mannequin of entrepreneurialism. And we could have numerous engagements and workshops round fundraising for startups and entrepreneurs in numerous phases of enterprise. We are going to usher in numerous companions that assist entrepreneurs, to both elevate capital or construct their enterprise plans.”
In fact, loads of the folks strolling into this new area aren’t trying to begin a brand new enterprise, or win a latte artwork competitors — they simply need espresso. They’ll be nicely served, and Konte hopes they’ll keep some time, to bask within the gentle that pours in by way of the cafe’s huge two-story home windows. “We’re simply bathed in gentle, I imply we principally are getting gentle all day,” he says. “I consider persons are going to journey far and large to come back and luxuriate in a espresso expertise, or tea, or juice or some African hand pies. This neighborhood needs extra and deserves greater than we’ve been getting. We’re not dumbing down the idea as a result of we’re not in San Francisco or in Jack London Sq.. We consider that individuals within the hood, locally, need and deserve good issues. And we’re right here to deliver it.”
Pink Bay Espresso’s opening festivities start as we speak, Monday, April 12, with a mariachi band at 12 p.m., and an Afro-Brazilian drum troupe at 3:30 p.m. Common hours can be 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days every week.