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A mural of a black woman in traditional Korean dress at a new cafe in Berkeley

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Inside an SF Coffee Roaster’s Radically Inclusive Berkeley Cafe

Wrecking Ball opens tomorrow on Shattuck Ave.

When the first customers enter a 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 partner 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.

Looking up the stairs at the new Wrecking Ball cafe
Looking up the stairs at the new Wrecking Ball cafe

“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.

A white sign with a picture of black wrecking ball truck and the word coffee
A minimalist sign outside Wrecking Ball
Wrecking Ball’s team designed the new space themselves
A mirror behind a coffee bar
A view of a mirror at the new Wrecking Ball cafe
Looking down onto the coffee bar area from a lofted seating area
Looking down onto the coffee bar area from a lofted seating area
Triangular tiles on the coffee bar
Another view of the tiled coffee bar
Brown stairs to an upper loft area
Stairs to an upper loft area
Looking into the new shop from the top of the stairs
Looking into the new shop from the top of the stairs
A mural by the artist Chris Chanyang Shim
A wood table with lamps
A table and library area
A table with lamps on it and a mural in the distance
Wrecking Ball’s new cafe features more seating than its smaller SF sibling
Windows at the entrance to the coffee shop
The entrance at 1600 Shattuck

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters

2271 Union Street, , CA 94123 (415) 638-9227 Visit Website
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