Monday, July 27, 2009

Chairs! and a cool counter!

More salvage hunting, and another great score - a lot of 24 oak library chairs. These things are probably 50 years old, really comfortable, and solidly built. I figure if they survived this long in a library, they can sustain a few more years in a cafe. It's hard to tell from these shots how beautiful they are. They're worn in all the right ways - signs of decades of butt friction and table pushing-into. They just need some cleaning and maybe a bit of linseed oil. You don't want to know what these cost - it'll just make you jealous. Trust me.

Also found this really excellent old chemistry lab table. Complete with gas jets for your bunsen burner mounted on the side. I'm not sure I can salvage all the cabinetry underneath. I want to use this for the espresso counter. I'll let the builders get a look at it and give me some advice.

So, my furnishings list is getting shorter - I still need interesting light fixtures (which are surprisingly hard to come by these days), 10 or so stools, another couple countertops, some sitting bars, and a couple couches.

Also still shopping for used equipment. Need espresso machine, brewers, grinders, a panini grill, a couple sinks, and an undercounter freezer.

Man, this part is fun.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

scroungers of the world, rejoice!

I've been spending the past few days looking through salvage yards for interesting materials to make stuff from. I need tabletops, countertops, benches, material to face the bar in, chairs, stools, lighting, on and on...I got hold of a free three-compartment dishwashing sink over the weekend (thanks to Kim for turning me on to it, and getting me permission to take it, and to Girard for helping me move it). It's bigger than I need, but for free, I'm not complaining.

Today was a good one, though. I ran into my friend Josh, of People's Donuts fame. He was at the Habitat for Humanity store in East Oakland, picking up some trim boards for his donut shop just down the road (San Pablo & 55th), which he hopes to open in a couple months. I told him what I was looking for, and he told me about a cart full of wooden tabletops he had seen at the UC Berkeley salvage store (just off San Pablo across the Berkeley border). So I went there to check it out.

What I found was pretty great. A rolling cart with six (6!) 2" thick, 6'6" x 3' oak tabletops. They were a bit beat up, but scars are just signs of character. I asked the cashier how much they were, and she didn't have a price. I offered her $50 (just over $8 each), and she said that would be just fine. I looked around a bit more and saw a couple other things I may go back for tomorrow, then paid up.

Getting the things to the shop was a bit of a chore. They're heavy - maybe 75 pounds each - and the cart was not the easiest thing to navigate. I considered borrowing or renting a truck, and decided it was overkill. I considered calling someone to help me roll them around, but decided I'd just do it myself.

So I did. I rolled the several-hundred pound, 7 foot long, metal-wheeled cart, up to the corner, then 5 blocks down San Pablo to the Cafe. I ride down San Pablo quite a bit in the morning, and always see guys pushing their enormous, really unwieldy shopping carts loaded with huge bags of glass and metal, and now I know exactly how they feel. It's hard work, and the cars in the road, construction on the sidewalk, bumps, ramps, driveways, bus stops, newspaper dispensers and trash cans
didn't make it any easier. I worked up a good sweat, but managed to get the whole thing to and inside the Cafe without major incident (although I did get into a couple conversations with drivers along the way).

Now to decide how I'm going to use them. I was waffling a bit on using larger communal tables or smaller ones. I think now the decision is largely made for me. Thanks, salvage!

Thanks to Josh for the tip. I owe you one.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Feels a bit like love

I posted signs on the Cafe windows just about a week ago. Since then, I've been really surprised at the outpouring of interest and support I've received. I'm getting multiple emails every day from folks in the neighborhood, offering help of various kinds, looking for work, or just cheering me on. I have to say that I love this. I knew from talking to people in the area in the past months that there are folks who want to have local places to go, and that I'd probably be able to find customers and even get some input into what I'm doing which might improve the Cafe in the end. But I didn't expect there to get so much enthusiasm, from so many people, and so immediately.

[A concrete measure of this: with very little encouragement from me, the Cafe has collected over 75 web-type followers, between its blog, Facebook and Twitter profiles. And these things have only been online for a couple of weeks.]

I'm amazed that someone passing by the Cafe would take the time to notice that there's something going on there, read the signs, make note of the URL, go home and find the webpage, click around to find an email address, and write and send an email. That's a significant effort, and meaningful. I figure that for each person who emails, hundreds more have noticed, and many feel the same way.

Two things that stand out from the past several days:

1) I'm learning more about my neighbors and neighborhood
Even though I've lived here for a little while (8 years or so), and have spent plenty of time on the streets in the area, walking my dog and riding my bike, I still don't know a lot about neighborhood people and their particular situations outside my immediate few blocks. I'm learning about the co-housing communities, the artist enclaves, the neighborhood associations, the block parties. Which reinforces for me the need for a place for us to gather and meet and learn. As long as we have to go to other neighborhoods (or, even worse, chain stores) to enjoy a cup of coffee and a quiet moment on a sunny afternoon, we won't ever get to know each other.

2) My neighbors are really helpful
I've had several offers of help of all kinds. A woman who had saved some of the leavings from the Pacific Bait & Tackle Shop when the building was renovated offered to lend me some to decorate the cafe. People have offered their ideas and their time. I hope this continues - especially the ideas. I love to hear what people have to say about the Cafe, the neighborhood, and what they want to experience here. Obviously, I won't make everyone happy, but I hope that you all continue to feel like you can and should contribute to the Cafe experience. It's about the neighborhood more than it is about any one of us. Even me.

Also, I mentioned the other day that someone is leaving me flowers on the door. There's a picture of one below. It's sweet, and though I'm curious about who is leaving them, I also sort of hope I don't ever find out. Mystery is nice.

Thanks, neighbors.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Artist's rendering

Exterior view of cafe, with lighting, awnings, and signage locations. Looks pretty cool, I think.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

One day mad equipment fest

I happened to get a note this morning from a friend (thanks, Sue!) who owns a deli in Walnut Creek, hipping me to a restaurant going out of business in her neighborhood, and selling off all their equipment. Today only. For two hours. In five minutes.

So, taking the moment by the horns, as it were, I jumped in my car and sped east. I got to the restaurant at 10:30, and found a good dozen people running in and out of the place with armloads of stuff. I thought I was probably too late to get anything good, but I poked around a bit, and found differently.

After an hour or so of scouring and negotiating, I had purchased almost all the refrigeration I need, along with an icemaker, a ton of wire rack shelving, some wall shelves, a kitchen door, some floor mats, a microwave, a hand wash sink, and some paper towel and soap dispensers, for only a few thousand bucks. All the equipment was only six months old, and came with warranty information and original invoices. Score!

I spent the rest of the day disassembling stuff in the restaurant, renting a truck, getting cash from the bank, finding friends to help me move (thanks, Gail and Everett!), and loading and unloading the truck.

In the meantime, I found out that there were some errors in the floor plan that the city had provisionally approved for occupancy puposes. My interior space had gotten bigger. Which you'd think was a good thing, but in the world of municipalities and permits, it's not. I had gained about 50 square feet, which I now need to remove from my seating area in order to get my occupancy permit. I'll deal with that in the morning.

Also, the city wants me to sign off on an agreement which relieves them of liability in case I don't adhere to the terms of my permits. Which, as far as I can tell, no one else has been asked to do. And the agreement is some non-standard thing that one of the building department guys just drew up. And which, when I marked it up to something a bit more palatable, I can't get feedback on. It may be that this issue (which, by the way, is the first problem I ran across when I started working with an architect a month and a half ago), is going to be the last one solved before I open. I have my fingers crossed that it will get worked out, since I'm approaching the point of no return quickly. More so after buying all this equipment today.

Some nice things - someone has been leaving flowers tucked into the front door of the cafe. When I get there in the morning, they make me smile a bit. And, people walking and biking and driving by the cafe often stop to look, and sometimes poke their heads in to ask what I'm doing, and when I'll be open. They all seem genuinely excited to have something opening in the neighborhood. I'm glad. Hopefully we won't disappoint.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A look inside (with pictures)

I spent some time yesterday & today inside the Cafe space. A couple builders who will be bidding on various parts of the project came by. I taped off positions walls/countertops/equipment and furniture on the floor to try to get a better feel for how the space will work. No major issues. I also took down the 'For Rent' signs on the windows (!!!), and put up 'Coming Soon' signs today (also !!!).

And, I took some interior and exterior photos, which I made into the panoramic images below. I love the afternoon light in the space, although it does make it a bit warm inside.