This is the third in a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco.
Wilson Jones is the owner of CoffeeShop located on 3139 Mission Street in Bernal Heights. In addition to opening and running this coffee shop he is also a talented graphic and web designer. I met Wilson after finishing a short hike up Bernal Heights and stumbled upon his cosy little shop. He poured me some cold-processed iced coffee and I was instantly convinced that this was my new favorite coffee shop in San Francisco.
MissionHipsters: How did you become interested in opening a coffee shop and what did you do before?
Wilson Jones: I was and still am a designer. Graphic designer, UX designer, web designer…and then the opportunity arose via a call from one of my freelance web clients, the new Bernal Heights-based cannabis club Herbal Mission,
“Dude, we need help, want to come take over and run the coffee shop in front of our building?”
I had just been laid off from a silicon valley job, we had lost our health insurance, and my wife had just broken the news that we were expecting a child. So I said ‘Heck,Yes!’ All this happened over the course of three bizarre days.
I have always loved the idea of a coffee house. Back in Austin, TX, I had a 24-hour digital service bureau and we had an espresso machine on our front counter for customers to whip up a drink with if they knew how.
My parents, even after they were both retired last year, dove back in and started a coffee shop in our grandmother’s town of Clarksville, Arkansas. We both, it turns out, didn’t really mention it to the other and simultaneously built Coffee Shops. Theirs had a radio station in it broadcasting the town’s sport talk radio…well played…
I decided to call ours the deceptively simple, and unused name, ‘CoffeeShop’. 11 months in, folks seem to appreciate what we are doing, enjoying the daily offerings of the Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative and now we are in the planning stages of a second spot on Folsom Street!
A customer just wrote this about us on our Yelp page: Holy cow.
London’s Soho 1960 … On a Saturday there was a ritual when I was 8 years old …
“Steppin out to Angelucci’s”
Mark Knofler penned it in the opening line of Dire Straits song “Walking in the Wild West End” from their first album about this iconic roaster.
We’d buy a couple of pounds of my mom’s special blend
Then …walk up the street to Bar Italia and have an espresso and a salami sandwich
Great website with some cool video’s here
So why mention all this stuff in a review of the CoffeeShop in San Francisco ?
Took me 52 years to emulate that magical experience…
You made an espresso that transcended time and space mate !
That about makes my entire year. Now I just need to keep it up. That makes 23 5-star reviews in a row so far: http://www.yelp.com/biz/coffeeshop-san-francisco
MH: What are some of the challenges to opening a small business in a city like San Francisco? You mentioned there was a $500 permit you had to apply and pay for to have a small table outside.
WJ: SF is rather like Oz. Everything is fantastically more expensive than I have ever experienced. But truthfully, once you get past that and learn to be patient, the folks I have dealt with are actually super cool and we are having a lot of fun getting to know folks in our neighborhood. The city got us lined up for bike parking out front in less than two weeks. Any day now, we’ll have that!
MH: I see you have some interesting drinks and food. What are some of the unique things you try to do in your store?
WJ: I have always gravitated towards making coffee in between design work over the years. First, Starbucks. Then, La Boulange. Then the Brickhouse Cafe in the SOMA. Kim and Fred there taught me so much about running a truly low-impact, sustainable operation, reducing our physical output of trash to the absolute bare minimum. I also started to get creative there with what I was making.
Our first original creation was the Espresso Pour. It’s simply espresso beans through a burr grinder and then single-poured through a filter. The good grinder brings out a whole spectrum of flavor that was hidden by the finer grind and high-pressure delivery of the espresso machine. This quickly became our top-selling pour. It’s strange, I’ll walk around town and ask other shops to make me one and rarely do I find someone who will do it.
Next came our Iced Coffee. I love cold coffee. I love cold, extremely low-acid coffee that I can sip slowly for hours. This means the ice cubes should optimally be made out of 18-hour chilled and filtered cold process Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative Sumatra. That way, it actually tastes exactly the same, awesome way an hour later. Boom. We are serious about this one. The only man I know who has viewed more YouTube videos /and/ poured more Lattés then me, Séan Wilson, pulled me aside one evening and introduced me to the idea of substituting time for temperature in the preparation of coffee. Did you know it sometimes takes coffee over 12 hours to freeze? I learned it by trying it out and definitely is a time consuming process, but so worth it.
And then, last month during the latest heat wave, came the newest addition to our offerings. Iced Yerba Mate.
A nice, orange blossom honey poured onto a cleaned filter, a little fresh lime squeezed in next, and then quickly steeped Yerba Mate poured into a waiting cup of ice. Voila! Folks love it.
But the most important thing I’ve learned these past 11 months is the importance of the role of the barista. We got to stay friendly and warm and kind. It’s important to care about the quality of everything deeply, but not get all pretentious about it. I watched ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ again. I want us to deliver something out of this world good, but quick. Not slow. Philz Coffee understands that people are in a hurry, despite their best intentions.
We are particularly blessed to have stumbled across the roaster Rick Soenksen of Ubuntu Coffee Cooperative in Emeryville and Emily Guzzardi of BATCH Baking here in Bernal Heights.
These are two people working at the height of their respective crafts.
MH: Your also a talented wood worker. What sort of things did you build in your shop?
WJ: My business partner and wife Olga Boiko and I live out by Outerlands Restaurant and Trouble Coffee in the outer sunset. That corridor is an inspiration to walk down on a sunny Sunday morning towards the ocean. I’m from Arkansas and 20 years in Austin, Texas. The folks from this part of the world really know and appreciate wood working. Every other storefront has something cool going on inside. I’m a big believer in using Everything I have to produce the desired function. A wall of Alhambra giant water bottles makes a great base for an Espresso Bar, an upside-down clear glass Ikea plate makes a great lid. I asked all my neighbors and friends for all their extra wood and I’m slicing it all into 1 inch strips and covering as many square inches of our Mission space as I can. It makes things feel comfortable and woodsy and encourages hanging out and chatting. Then, a smarty-pants customer, Robert Leshner from SafeShepherd walked in one day and handed me a can of chalkboard paint, now a few of the walls are giant chalk boards.
MH: Anything else exciting going on for you?
WJ: Well I have all my design stuff that I still am active with. In addition to that I recently became a father. Waking up to my 3 month old daughter this morning, pointing at a giraffe on the side of her crib and her cracking up laughing about sums it up. Doesn’t get much better than that. I have to agree with her, the overall design of the giraffe with little fluffy horns is hilarious.