When the first customers enter the new Berkeley location of SF’s Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters tomorrow, they’ll see themselves in an eight foot mirror above the bar. It’s a sort of “visual metaphor” according to co-CEO Nick Cho — Wrecking Ball’s goal, he means, is to reflect its community.
Cho and co-CEO Trish Rothgeb, who roast their own coffee in a Folsom Street space, opened Wrecking Ball’s first, petite cafe in Cow Hollow in 2014. Their new Berkeley location, a former Philz Coffee shop at 1600 Shattuck, is much larger. There’s more room to serve coffee drinks from a new Modbar espresso machine, more space to stock a variety of food and baked goods — vendors TBD — and even enough room to set up a stand for custom lemonade beverages. There’s also more space for the community: More seating and tables for conversation and inclusion, a major goal of Wrecking Ball’s business.
“This isn’t an art piece,” says Cho of the new shop, “ the whole space is about ‘how do we want to make people feel?’ It’s a space for people to interact.”
Up some stairs in a loft-like area, visitors can gather at 12-foot, public library-style table. A large bookshelf will serve as a sort of take-one, leave-one community library. There’s a coffee shop couch that “feels like a vestige of the ’90s and Friends and Central Perk,” some chairs — and a striking mural of a French and Jamaican woman wearing traditional Korean clothing. It’s a nod to Cho’s Korean heritage by the Korean artist Chris Chanyang Shim, commissioned for the space.
Cho and Rothgeb, as customers quickly realize, aren’t just coffee professionals: They’re idealists championing diversity in the often white and male-dominated specialty coffee space. They’re also frequently-cited coffee experts — Rothgeb is credited with coining the term “third wave coffee.” That position of authority comes with responsibility, says Cho. “We’re sort of uniquely positioned to help design and articulate where we’re from and where we’re going… the next era [of coffee]”
One small way Wrecking Ball puts its values in practice will be through its wi-fi. The cafe will encourage patrons to make small donations to a designated charity in exchange for internet access. Up first will be RAICES, the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. It was RAICES, after all, that inspired Wrecking Ball to turn down a $40,000 contract to serve coffee at a Salesforce conference, a move to protest the software company’s collaboration with US Customs and Border Protection.
Starting tomorrow, Wrecking Ball’s new cafe will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.