Before COVID wrestled San Francisco into submission, Audi used to drive cars into the enormous cafe and events space at 222 2nd Street. Amidst stadium-style seating and wood-paneled walls, events hosted by car companies, local nonprofits including La Cocina, and morning yoga classes kept Equator Coffee’s SoMa location atwitter with activity. But the cafe closed in March 2020 — and the company never risked a reopening as remote work became the city’s de facto style.
But as of this month, the space is open once more serving expanded food options and more confidence than ever. Equator Coffee CEO JP Lachance says the team wants to be a part of the effort to bring San Francisco back to what it’s meant to be. “In some ways, it’s more art than science,” Lachance says of how and when the company decided to reopen the location. “But we come down here all the time and have seen the lines forming again. We’re reading the tea leaves, all these signs, and now’s the time.”
Reopening on October 5, 2023, the coffee shop — which is nestled inside the LinkedIn building — is open from Monday to Friday, though the team hopes to expand hours once it makes sense. Equator partners with various bakeries depending on the location; here, daily-made pastries come courtesy of Compagnon Bakery, a San Francisco-based business with a suite of croissants, kouignoù-amann, and financiers to offer. New offerings include to-go prepared food. Lachance says the breakfast sandwich — an avocado and egg medley on Rustic Bakery flax sourdough bread — is most wisely enjoyed with added prosciutto. Ultra popular Boichik Bagels provides everything and plain bagel sandwiches, too. All the classic Equator drinks, such as the Habibi latte and cold brew cream offerings, are for sale alongside coffee gear and bags of beans.
Lachance says the company was cautious as it reopened its various cafes. The business’s Proof Lab location in Mill Valley reopened relatively early as plenty of visitors swung through before or after partaking in outdoor, COVID-safe activities in Marin County. But Lachance says Equator kept an eye on a variety of indicators to see when reopening in SoMa made sense. Their landlords kept them up to speed on neighborhood openings and closings, and the company monitored reports on cell phone activity in the area. “It was a ghost town,” Lachance says of SoMa. “There was no reason to reopen. But people finally starting coming back.”
The cafe’s reopening comes as the neighborhood and the city continue to struggle to come back to life after the worst of the pandemic’s impacts. Entrepreneur Angelina Hong just opened events space Mosa in SoMa, hosting pop-ups including Hadeem and Dabao Singapore throughout the fall. Chef Peter Hemsley earned a Michelin star this year for his new seafood-centric restaurant Aphotic on Folsom Street. The city’s Vacant to Vibrant program has already seen businesses including Devil’s Teeth and Teranga open their doors in once-quiet Embarcadero spaces. “We just want to see San Francisco be the vibrant city that it once was,” Lachance says.
Equator Coffee (222 2nd Street) is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with hours set to expand.
Update: October 16th, 2023, 9:45 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Compagnon Bakery was founded in San Rafael and now operates out of San Francisco.