Raul Sanchez is on a mission to bring a holy trinity, of sorts, to SoMa. He’s raised more than $10,000 via GoFundMe in pursuit of his ambitious project: the perfect balance of records, coffee, and books. Cafe Suspiro, grand opening in October but open for limited service now, is named after Sanchez’s grandfather’s tiny shop (a tiendita) in Colotlan, Mexico, in the state of Jalisco. It translates as a sigh of relief. Sanchez was a barista at Vega Coffee, which doled out espressos in the exact same location, 13 years ago — he was the shop’s first hire. “I want to keep that familiarity with the folks in the neighborhood,” Sanchez says of this next chapter.
Before this business venture, he left Vega to try out digital marketing (not quite as satisfying as the cafe world) before returning in 2014. When Vega owners John Quintos and Kirk Harper decided to offer Sanchez the keys to the shop this summer, he rose to the occasion. Now, he’s proud to open an outdoor coffee bar right on the sidewalk under the new moniker and with an updated approach. Coffee goes for $4, the location’s well-loved drink the Macau Iced Coffee goes for $5.75, and new additions such as Raul’s Mexican Mocha and a horchata latte will run you $6. As for the beans, Cento Coffee, which Vega used for eight years, is a San Francisco-based roaster Sanchez likes because the small company is personable. “It’s a really nice roast. The medium blend is a great, chocolate-y profile,” Sanchez says.
Sanchez is no music wimp. His family in Mexico, the Orquesta Sanchez, is a big inspiration for the incoming record-selling arm of the business. Customers can peruse old and new records, well-known and obscure, before turning to leaf through a selection of books running the same gamut. For some 30-odd years, Sanchez also drummed through bands in the city. He jammed with the Aerosols, the Junior Panthers, and the Damsels, playing NoisePop and loads of other local venues. This is a chance for him to get back to the scene. “I’ve been a musician since I was a kid, and my family are all musicians,” Sanchez says. “I want to carry local indie-punk and pop records. They can deal with me rather than the big music store chains.” As for books, Victor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold is his favorite, though his favorite music-related book is Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley.
There are still a few things to get in order for the official opening. Sanchez is inviting over-encumbered record and book lovers to donate their surpluses to the shop because he’ll need some goods to peddle upon opening. He’s hoping to host the grand opening in October, but Sanchez just finished a practice run last weekend through Sunday Streets in SoMa on August 21. He’ll open the doors again for the Folsom Street Fair, but reminds parents not to bring their kids to that one. For now, he’s just excited to get things going by offering coffee throughout the week. “I found a way to keep the doors open as Vega,” Sanchez says. “Then someone pointed out to me that there really aren’t record shops in SoMa. The pandemic set everything in motion.”
Cafe Suspiro is holding its next temporary opening on Sunday, September 25 at 1246 Folsom Street from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. In the meantime, swing by Monday - Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for coffee. Drop off books and records at the store Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.