Keba Konte began Red Bay Coffee in his storage. Seven years later, it’s arduous to think about Oakland with out Purple Bay, which has 5 areas — together with a cell 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 take pleasure in, 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 tough, he additionally used his cafe areas to host panels and workshops for entrepreneurs of shade. As Purple Bay grows, he needs to see different native companies developing, too.
As Konte told me during a conversation final yr, he’s targeted on making all of Purple Bay’s cafe areas “unapologetically welcoming to Black and brown folks: By placing Africa on the wall, by not exploiting our farmers with footage of them smiling with sweat and soiled palms that they’re circuitously benefiting from.” Africa is, fairly actually, on the wall on the Purple Bay roastery location on East tenth Avenue in Fruitvale, the place an unlimited residing define of the continent homes lush hanging vines. Earlier than the pandemic, buddies gathered under this residing wall to drink espresso and catch up.
Whereas indoor seating stays paused on the roastery, Purple 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 geared up to host panel discussions on entrepreneurship for Black and brown enterprise house owners, produce movies for Purple Bay’s YouTube channel, and prove full meals and heat baked items. In fact, there’s additionally a good looking, glossy espresso bar, the place clients can take pleasure in 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 Purple Bay’s motto: “Stunning Espresso To The Individuals,” and these phrases are one thing of a guiding mild because the enterprise expands. The towering area, crested with dozens of sculpted gold lion’s heads, would draw consideration in any neighborhood. It’s notably 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 Purple Bay’s roastery, and a 5 minute stroll from his own residence. Selecting this new location, Konte says, was “very intentional. We’re attempting to make specialty espresso and delightful experiences extra accessible, and make this an area the place folks within the neighborhood and the group have entry to espresso experiences like this.”
After final week’s tender opening, Purple Bay’s new location may have its grand opening at the moment, 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 provides Eater readers a glance into a few of the most important design selections on this huge new area, and talks by means of his option to set Purple 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 at the moment with a mariachi band and an Afro-Brazilian drum troupe, is a nod to the various 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 automotive stereos. However we simply sort of need to deliver a few of our personal noise,” says Konte. “So we’re going to have this collection of stay music performances. The factor about Worldwide Boulevard is that 20-plus years in the past, it was East 14th Avenue. However they modified the title to Worldwide Boulevard, and I believe that’s in all probability probably the greatest names they might have given it. As a result of while you begin on this boulevard from the lake, you’re going by means of Chinatown, after which Southeast Asian communities, after which by means of Latinx communities, after which into the Black neighborhood, all the way in which into San Fernando, into the whiter neighborhoods. I wished our opening celebration to mirror these cultures and people nations.” The opening celebrations are a illustration, says Konte, of the way in which Worldwide Boulevard modifications as you progress East from the lake, finally arriving at Purple Bay’s towering new residence.
Save for an 18-inch-walled concrete vault that weathered the fireplace, the center of the financial institution constructing have been fully reimagined and up to date. The area was largely designed by Purple Bay’s Chief of Model Rachel Konte, who can also be married to Keba. The open format is vibrant, trendy, and filled with ferns and hanging crops. A protracted bar with an astounding variety of electrical shops stretches alongside a wall of big home windows, providing loads of seating for individuals who need 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, throughout the pandemic, that even the smallest issues like this are such a pleasure and luxurious.”
Proper now, the pastry case is stuffed with items from partnered bakeries, however quickly, the brand new kitchen shall 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 wished to get the doorways opened and launch the espresso program,” says Konte. “However we’re creating African hand pies — suppose empanadas, however a bit extra African- and Caribbean-inspired. Vegetarian, savory hand pies, that shall be made right here and accessible right here scorching, and we’ll have these accessible in our different retailers as nicely.”
The delight and pleasure of the brand new area is, unsurprisingly, the espresso bar. Till now, Purple Bay areas have all been constructed to suit the constrictions of tight or unconventional areas. There’s a espresso van, a small storage container customary 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, lovely 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 completely different espressos. “Espresso is a science and an artwork. So we’re attempting to type of slender 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 pretty.”
When constructing out the lengthy counter, Keba and Rachel have been offered with three choices: wooden, stone, or concrete. They determined to go a distinct course totally. Impressed by the design of cafes in Copenhagen, they selected a linoleum. “It has simply an unbelievable array of colours,” Konte says. “It’s tender to the contact, and an environmentally pleasant materials. Wooden will get sort of sticky. Stone and concrete is all the time so chilly, and so arduous.”
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 prove fairly good.”
The cafe’s second and third ground are reserved for Purple Bay’s many behind-the-scenes and post-covid initiatives. As Purple Bay continues to broaden, six rooms of places of work will deal with administrative duties. This new area will even permit for Purple Bay to take its growth on-line. “I believe the area may be very, very photogenic. And so we’ll be taking pictures 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 shall 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’s going to quickly occupy the 4000-square-foot area. He says Purple Bay is within the closing weeks of figuring out what he describes as a “important partnership,” that may transfer into the area and act as a assist for entrepreneurs and fledgling companies which might be in want of a jumpstart.
“That’s all the time been a part of what Purple Bay is: being a mannequin of entrepreneurialism. And we may have varied engagements and workshops round fundraising for startups and entrepreneurs in varied levels of enterprise. We are going to usher in varied 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 only need espresso. They’ll be nicely served, and Konte hopes they’ll keep some time, to bask within the mild that pours in by means of the cafe’s huge two-story home windows. “We’re simply bathed in mild, I imply we principally are getting mild all day,” he says. “I consider individuals are going to journey far and large to return 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 Square. We consider that individuals within the hood, locally, need and deserve good issues. And we’re right here to deliver it.”
Purple Bay Espresso’s opening festivities start at the moment, Monday, April 12, with a mariachi band at 12 p.m., and an Afro-Brazilian drum troupe at 3:30 p.m. Common hours shall be 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., seven days per week.