Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's been TWO WHOLE YEARS!!! Come Celebrate with us!

In December, Actual Cafe is celebrating two years of operation in Oakland’s Golden Gate district. On Friday December 9th from 5-10pm, we'll commemorate the occasion with the opening of a retrospective art show, entitled “We Are The People In Your Neighborhood”, and featuring our favorite artists who have shown at the cafe in the past year, along with artists from the Actual Cafe staff.

We'll have a repeat engagement of our free DIY s’mores stations on the sidewalk outside the cafe, and our friends at the East Bay Bike Party will be organizing a gathering during our party which will depart from the cafe for the start of EBBP’s regular monthly ride at 7:15pm. DJs Oze and Lifeone will spin records, and we'll have lots of other fun stuff that we haven't figured out yet.

Artists in the show will include: Jon Suzuki (bicycle photography), Eva Silverman & Querido Galdo (Oakland and other urban photography), Alexis Babayan (woodcuts of local street scenes), Nissa Nicole (photography), Lauren Aczon (street corner illustrations), along with two of the cafe crew: Kim Babnik (character illustrations) and Rachyel Puleo (photography).

We'll also be unveiling our new indoor mural (also entitled “We Are The People In Your Neighborhood”), by our own Kimbo Babnik! It'll be awesome. Trust us.

'We' means all of us, but especially you. So don't miss the party, K?

sal & the whole actual crew

Eva Silverman - “Hair”

Nissa Nicole - untitled (Green Bicycle)

Querido Galdo - “Oakland Found”

Rachyel Puleo - “Cafe”

Kim Babnik - “Mermaid”

Lauren Aczon - “Oakland”

Jon Suzuki - untitled (vintage bike chain guard)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Press release for our Park(ing) Day weekend celebration



Actual Cafe, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), the Golden Gate Commmunity Alliance (GGCA), A PLACE for Sustainable Living, along with other neighborhood volunteers, will reconstruct the Actual Cafe parklet which debuted in May of this year, as well as creating three new sidewalk planter/bench combinations for other businesses (The Essence of Beauty, James and the Giant Cupcake, and Kinks Beauty Supply). All these elements will be built from reclaimed building materials (some of which were donated by the Re*use People Store in East Oakland), and will be installed in time for Park(ing) Day, on September 16th. The Actual Cafe parklet will remain in place through Park(ing) Day weekend (9/16-9/18). The new sidewalk furniture will remain in place permanently.

Actual Cafe has been an advocate for parklets since its opening in 2009. The cafe abuts a no-longer-operational AC Transit bus stop, which creates a long stretch of vacant (and unusable) pavement immediately outside its window. Hosting a permanent parklet in that bus stop is a dream of Sal Bednarz, owner of the cafe, which appears increasingly likely to become a reality in the near future. On Park(ing) Day from 5-8pm, Actual Cafe will host its regular Friday evening DJ happy hour in the parklet (weather permitting). The cafe will be asking visitors to sign a petition to the City of Oakland to grant a permanent permit for the Parklet, as well as hosting a guest book and inviting comments through the weekend. WOBO parklet passport holders will receive stamps at the cafe, as well as a 10% discount all weekend long; all other businesses on the block will also offer discounts to passport holders.

In addition, on Saturday, 9/17, from 9am-6pm, a block party will be held on 64th Street between San Pablo Avenue and Marshall Street. Sponsored by A PLACE for Sustainable Living coordinating with its neighbors, including St. Columba Catholic Church and Rebuilding Together Oakland, it will feature a flea market in St. Columba's parking lot from 9AM to 2PM, along with music and other activities. The party will be held entirely in what would otherwise be parking spaces on the block. Performances include: Korean Drumming, children's theater by Marin based sustainability education troupe Next Generation and folk/blues by Ariel Eisen and John Bennet.

The new San Pablo Avenue sidewalk furniture will follow the same construction style and methods as the Actual Cafe parklet, and is intended to integrate the entire block between Alcatraz Avenue and 63rd Street into the parklet experience. In addition to providing seating in the form of benches, planters in the structures will contain plants provided by A Verb for Keeping Warm (another block business) who will use them to create pigments for their yarn dyeing studio. The planters will incorporate an ingenious self-watering design using recycled plastic bottles and a water reservoir to provide constant water to the plants above and reduce the need for regular watering.

Many of the original Actual Cafe parklet components were taken after its debut in May after being disassembled and left outside the cafe, to the disappointment of neighbors and volunteers who contributed to its construction. Says Sal Bednarz, owner of Actual Cafe, "I can't wait to have the parklet back in place so neighbors can experience it again, and for the day when it becomes a permanent fixture of the neighborhood. I'm also really excited to be expanding the parklet through the installation of sidewalk furniture for our neighbor businesses." During its first incarnation, the cafe's parklet was admired by literally thousands of visitors in just a few days, at the EBBC Bike After Work Day party, and during the following weekend at the cafe. Says Bednarz, "It also had a substantial traffic calming effect on what is normally a really dangerous intersection - people were slowing down to look, and also just taking it a bit easier because they saw the parklet in the street."

The City of Oakland is within weeks of issuing its first RFP for parklet proposals, and intends to grant eight parklet permits this year, in a pilot program that will hopefully expand into a regular parklet process in early 2012, according to Blair Miller, chair of the cross-functional task force at the City of Oakland responsible for developing a parklet process in the city. Actual Cafe intends to be a participant in the pilot program, and will use materials developed during this weekend event to show neighborhood and area-wide support for its parklet and parklets in general. "There is no doubt in my mind that the commitment of the community to help Actual Cafe build one quality parklet, let alone two, motivated the City of Oakland to start taking parklets seriously," said Ruth Miller (no relation), parklet program coordinator for Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. "I look forward to seeing the other parklets imagined and built all over Oakland and San Francisco, but there's something really special about taking your friends into the Golden Gate neighborhood and saying: 'that parklet that's full of people and activity - I built that!' Building a parklet is a unique and wonderful way to support your community."

Park(ing) Day and the following weekend will be observed by other Oakland businesses with various temporary parklet installations. These include Farley's East on Grand Avenue, Arizmendi on Lakeshore Blvd., and another Lakeshore location hosted by the Lakeshore Merchants Association.

Park(ing) Day: www.parkingday.org
Actual Cafe: www.actualcafe.com / Sal Bednarz / actualcafe@gmail.com / 510.735.6016
Walk Oakland Bike Oakland: www.wobo.org / Ruth Miller / ruth@wobo.org / 770.312.9295
A PLACE for Sustainable Living: www.aplaceforsustainableliving.org / Takahiro Noguchi / takahiro.noguchi@gmail.com / 510.213.8252
Golden Gate Community Alliance: www.goldengateoakland.org / Dan Woloz / dan@bikemandan.com
A Verb for Keeping Warm: www.averbforkeepingwarm.com / Kristine Vejar / kristine@averbforkeepingwarm.com
The Essence of Beauty: www.4theessenceofbeauty.com / Andrea Abdullah / andreaabdullah7@yahoo.com / 510.601.1972
James and the Giant Cupcake: www.jamesandthegiantcupcake.com / Eurydice Manning / jamesandthegiantcupcake@gmail.com
Kinks Beauty Supply: 510.655.7002
twitter #oaklet

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

more...of just about everything.

The months just fly by, and there's a lot that I'd like to blog about in order to keep a record, and always lots to communicate to all of you. But it just doesn't work out that way so much. I (rightly, I think) prioritize keeping the day-to-day operation here under control, which is a growing job as our business grows. We had an unexpectedly busy summer, in terms of customers and revenue - where last year we got less busy in June through August, this year we're busier every month. This is partly a function of having new neighbors with growing businesses, who attract more people to the block (who sometimes want a coffee or a waffle or whatever), and partly just us attracting new customers through word of mouth. Honestly, since we opened, it's been all we could do to keep up with growth, and that's still the case. Good problems to have, they say. Someday, I'll be trying to figure out how to get more customers through the door, but right now, you all just keep on coming. Thanks for that. :)

Growth means constant adjustment - we built systems that worked reasonably well at the beginning, but every few months we've had to re-engineer what we're doing to make our operation more efficient and consistent as more customers decided they wanted to spend their money here. We've had some problems along the way - some things haven't worked out as well as we'd hoped, and sometimes staff and customers suffered for it. But on the whole, we've been doing pretty OK. We've also managed to build a stronger crew over time - each time we grow the staff, I feel like we improve. We're at a point where three quarters of our staff has been here for over 6 months, and almost half have been here a year or more. This in a business which has only been around for a bit more than a year and a half in an industry known for high turnover - I think we're doing pretty well on that front, and hope we continue to.

We've spent a lot of the past 9 months adjusting our food menu, adding new bakery goods, establishing rotating specials (and adding new things to the menu as we went). Also, we've had to improve the speed and efficiency of our counter operation - turning out food and drinks faster, ringing sales faster, setting up stations so that two people can work side-by-side when things get really busy, improving our inventory and prep schedules, etc. We've also really beefed up our entertainment calendar - we've got live music every Saturday, and most Sundays, and our standing Friday evening happy hour (with DJs, movies, and other fun stuff). We're getting more great performers, more great art, and more great folks to throw their events here, and have even more coming. We've already planned out the remainder of our arts calendar for the year, and have some exciting stuff coming that we think you'll all really love.

We're focused right now on making some adjustments to our coffee program - we recently switched our decaf to a new product that we like a lot better, and we're making some minor recipe changes as well (watch for those over the next month or two). We're also improving our general drink quality and consistency - although we've always had some great baristas, we also had to hire folks who could handle food, and they haven't always had the best coffee chops. I'm happy to say that we've made some good progress on this front in the past couple months, but there's more to be done - we'll keep at it.

We're really excited to be hosting our first multi-venue art show in September: Fuzzy Logic - Oakland Threads is a group fiber arts show that will be hosted here and at James and the Giant Cupcake, and Threads of Transition, Patterns of Change - Rabari Textiles of India will be hosted by A Verb for Keeping Warm. We'll be opening both shows on September 9th, from 5-10pm, with DJs, free cupcakes, popcorn, happy hour specials, and a screening of The Muppet Movie. It looks to be a real swell time, so make a point of dropping by.

But, maybe the most exciting news...right now, we're working on re-building our parklet! Park(ing) Day is next month (September 16th), and we're one of many Oakland businesses who will be deploying temporary parklets during that weekend. Ours will be the most permanent of the crop, and we're told by the folks at the City of Oakland that there will be an RFP issued in the next several weeks which will allow us to apply for one of eight parklet permits to be granted in a pilot program. I see no reason why we would be denied a permit, and I can't wait for the day that the parklet becomes a permanent fixture of the block.

As part of the Park(ing) Day brouhaha, we're helping the Golden Gate Community Alliance build new sidewalk furniture for several businesses on our block (The Essence of Beauty, James and the Giant Cupcake, and Kinks Beauty Supply). We're using a design similar to what we did for the parklet for sidewalk planters and benches, and really trying to integrate the entire block in the parklet experience. I can't tell you how excited this makes me. I hope you feel the same. The planter/benches will become permanent fixtures of the block immediately - although we'll need to take the parklet away after the weekend, the sidewalk furniture will remain.

Park(ing) Day weekend is shaping up to be a three-day block party here at SP/Alcatraz: we'll be listed in the nationwide Park(ing) Day directory, and expect lots of folks coming by on Friday to check out the parklet. We're having our regular Friday night happy hour that night on the sidewalk adjoining the parklet, which ought to be fun. On Saturday (9/17), St. Columba Church (across the street from us) is having a big yard sale in their parking lot, and the folks at A PLACE for Sustainable Living are planning a street closure and block party on 64th and San Pablo for the day (details soon...). On Sunday (9/18), we'll have a sidewalk party with entertainment from noon-4:00, and will again invite press, politicians and other folks from the area to soak up the parklet vibe and get excited about our parklet and Oakland parklets in general. We'll be circulating a petition for signatures which will help ease us through the permit process, and also stamping Oakland parklet passports all weekend long. Passport holders will receive a 10% discount all weekend as well (more details about passports coming...).

We've got more in store...Halloween/Dia de los Muertos things in October with a great solo photography show by Varese Layzer; a group food-themed art show in November, with a special Plaid Friday party, and more, more, more!

Also, I think we can officially declare Laptop-Free Weekends a success, thanks to all of you. We've managed to do something a little different here, and our customers love us for it. I hope some of the folks who harassed me and us in the early days have taken the time to stop by and experience what we're doing, and that maybe we've helped a couple people see things in a new way.


Stop by and share the love. It's real.

sal & the actual crew

Saturday, May 21, 2011

parklets, built, enjoyed, now missing...

It's been a busy spring for us here, and for me personally. I've been training for AIDS/Lifecycle, and I'm leaving in just a couple weeks to ride my bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (www.tofighthiv.org/goto/salbednarz for more). It's been a lot of work, finding time to train and run the business, and getting prepared to be gone for 10 straight days in June. I agonized over the decision for a while, and recently decided that it was time to hire a manager; once I did, I spent a couple months trying to find the right person. I think I did - Chris is his name, and he's been here for a couple weeks now. If you see him at the counter, welcome him. I'm looking forward to many improvements in the operation once he gets settled in - stay tuned for that.

But on top of all this, I have been working with Walk Oakland, Bike Oakland, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and others, trying to get permission to install a Parklet (http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/ if you don't know what a parklet is) in the defunct bus stop at the end of Alcatraz (right outside our window). Although parklets have been deployed in San Francisco for a couple years now, there's no process to do the same thing here in Oakland. We spent time speaking to various City departments, and couldn't get a clear answer about how to proceed.

So we built one.

We spent just a few hundred dollars, and used mostly reclaimed and donated materials, and only volunteer labor. Our friends at WOBO and EBBC, and especially the PLACE for Sustainable Living contributed tons of hours to help us get all the construction done. It was beautiful, I think.

It went to EBBC's Bike After Work party in Old Oakland, where it was a big hit, then came back here for our Parklet Love-In, which was tons of fun - we had lots of friends and neighbors come out, and everyone had great things to say about the parklet. It got well used that day.

After the weekend was over, I disassembled the parklet into its components, and stacked it up on the sidewalk to get it ready to move into storage until we had another event or could get a permit for permanent installation.

Then the bad thing happened. I was so wiped out from all the parklet building, and other Bike Month things we'd been working on, that I left the parklet pieces sitting on the sidewalk for longer than I ought to. Someone (and maybe multiple someones) helped themselves to the pieces before I noticed and could do anything about it.

So we're out a parklet. Which is sad. It's not the money, or even the time I spent, that I'm sad about. It's the fact that so many other folks gave their sweat and blood (literally) to get the thing built, moved, re-built, etc. I don't want their work to have been wasted.

So, I'm trying to spread the word as widely as I can, and enlist whatever help we can get, to find and get the parklet returned to us. I'm relatively sure that the folks who took it didn't think they were doing anything wrong, and if they get wind that we're looking for it, they'll bring it back home.

Please, if you've seen our parklet, let us know. If you took it, please bring it back. I'll make it worth your while - no questions asked. No one here is angry - just sad and hopeful.


Monday, March 7, 2011

musings near the end of Daylight Saving Time...

It's almost spring. Which always makes me look at the world a bit differently. Days get longer, flowers start blooming, and we sell more salads and less soups.

It seems like an appropriate time for reflection and planning, and we're looking forward to an exciting year ahead. We have new neighbors moving in across the street - a (still unnamed) sustainability center, which includes lots of our friends (the Sustainable Living Roadshow, B Spoke Tailor, Spokeland, and many more). They're doing interesting things already, and they're not even really open yet. Stop by if you're in the area and say hello - they're friendly, and almost always there.

Daylight Saving Time ends next Sunday, and we'll be looking at extending our mid-week hours again. Immediately, we'll be open until 9pm on Wednesdays, to allow us to start movies when it's dark enough to actually see them.

We have a ton of exciting stuff going on this month, and it's just a little piece of what we're working on for the upcoming year.

First, we'll be opening an art show of photography and illustration this month - Osmos, by Japhy Riddle. We're doing what we can to fill the cafe with interesting art that has something to say about the people and places in our very own neighborhood, and we think Japhy's photography fits the bill nicely (his illustration says more about what he sees when he closes his eyes, but it's also cool). The opening will be next Saturday, and will include music by Japhy's band, Cadet. Looks to be a fun party.

On the 13th, we'll have another edition of Second Sundays with the Songwriters Collective, which is becoming quite the popular and well-received event.

Also this month (on Sunday March 20th), we'll be hosting another Men's & Women's Clothing Swap. The last time we did this, it was a huge success, and folks had a ball. We're looking forward to more of the same.

On the 25th of March, we'll be hosting a very special fundraiser for AIDS/Lifecycle, to raise money for the SF AIDS Foundation, which provides essential services to people with (and at risk to contract) HIV - not just in San Francisco, but all over the state (they're also involved in AIDS projects worldwide). We'll be doing these events for the next three months (until the ride itself). This month, the event will be sponsored by our friends at New Belgium Brewing, and they'll be doing live silk-screening during the event (which is kinda neato), as well as donating a bunch of raffle prizes and matching the first $500 we raise during the event. We'll be joined by another special friend, the LIBA falafel truck, which will be parked outside selling delicious falafelness. DJs Sixty4K and Kid Frostbite will dish tasty records, and we'll be raffling off all sorts of cool prizes. A portion of everything sold during the night will go to the ALC fund, so all you have to do to support the cause is show up and spend a couple bucks.

On the 26th, Rad Dad Zine will be having their zine release party, with live music, readings from the zine, and more.

Wow. And that's not even everything. Some great movies on Wednesdays this month, more music on Saturday nights, more Decompression Sessions on Friday nights, and of course, our popular weekend brunch.

working hard for it, cause we luvya
-sal & the actual team

Monday, January 10, 2011

we're changing some things...

we've had an exciting holiday season, and wrapped up an excellent first year. thanks again to all of you who have been a part of our thing, helping us in every way, every day.

now, to kick off the new year in true corner-shaking style...

we've got some exciting new things rolling out this week:

our morning pastry baker (artisan foods of berkeley) has given up their pastry business, and we’re forced to adapt. we’re taking the opportunity to freshen up our baked goods, and to do some new things ourselves. here’s the deal:

we’re doing some more stuff inhouse:

we’ve started baking delicious frittatas, to replace the quiche we were buying from artisan. this lets us expand variety, and introduce seasonal flavors as we go. we’ll be putting out a veggie and a meat frittata every day, at the same price as our quiche/quiche plate used to be. we like the frittata better because it’s more protein, less fat, and wheat-free.

we’re also baking fresh fruit scones every morning. we’ll start with just a couple flavors (pear/almond and lemon/currant for now) and play with others once we get comfortable with them. once we’ve got these nailed, we may start experimenting with other baked goods (muffins, etc.). we started selling these yesterday, and got a lot of smiling customer feedback, so give em a try.

we also started baking our own brownies, to replace the artisan brownies we used to have. they're a bit different, but also really delicious - sticky and fudgy...yum.

and, we’re bringing in some new yummy baked stuff:

as of today, we’ll be taking croissants and morning buns from our awesome bread bakers, hopkins st. bakery. the product is a bit different from what we’ve been getting, but really good. we think hopkins st.’s morning buns are the most delicious we’ve tried (especially the cranberry ones)

we’re taking some new stuff from zazou’s bakery, experimenting with their delicious new coffee cakes, banana and zucchini bread, as well as some fruit tartlets. these are superb, and we’re excited to be carrying product from another small local baker.

AND...we've got almond milk!

recently, a lot of people started asking for almond milk. now we have it. :)

ask for it in your drink - it's the same price as soy for an espresso drink, and no charge on a granola.

we’re keeping all our prices the same.

we’d love your feedback. please try our new items and let us know if you love (or hate) them. if you thing we’re missing something, tell us that, too.

stay tuned...as always, there's more to come...

actual staff