18 June 2009

If your coffee can't be local...can your coffeeshop?

Something has gone terribly wrong in Venice. And it's called Intelligentsia Coffee. One of these "coffeebars" landed on Abbot Kinney this past Monday in the old Scentiments (flower shop) plot. Donny and I walked in there last weekend and were not sure if we were still in Venice; in that bad way.

The coffee was good. And the pistachio scone was yummy. But the interior decoration and overall design went way too far. I love modern and I love to try new concepts, but this was too much and not Venice. Every espresso machine was see-thru, as in you could see the mechanics. There were at least 4-5 espresso coffee stations. Every countertop that wasn't glass or stainless was some sort of wood looking material. It definitely didn't look like reclaimed wood, compared to the tables at Gjelina. And it didn't even come close to the simple, minimalist style at Axe. The baristas were all wearing uniforms, which was a big red flag that this meant corporate. It felt contrived and overly commercial. I'm there to get a cup of coffee, not feel like I'm in a commercial for coffee AND all of its machines, beans, cups, accessories, etc. There were more things to buy than flavors of coffee.

And the clientele. For having been open not even one weekend prior the place was buzzing. I felt as though I was on a TV set filled with happy, trendy people sipping lattes and having just the Most Amazing Weekend! That maybe real for some people in LA, but its not my neighborhood.

My house has a stoner who lives in his car and several cats that roam the streets like they own it.

I never thought we "needed" another coffee shop on Abbot Kinney. I think we have done just fine with Abbot's Habit, 3 Square, Groundwork and the Dola newsstand (see photo), which incidentally sells Intelligentsia coffee. Now, I already know that the owner of the otheroom has plans for a cafe/market of his own so that you can buy snacks and drink beer next door to the bar. Somehow even though I know he has at least 5 bars between NY, LA and Miami - it still feels like a local joint. Maybe its the interior design, maybe because I've met the owner and he's a cool guy or maybe because its just a fun place to hang out and there are only 2 other bars on Abbot Kinney.

Something has to change and I'm not sure what that something is. I am worried that my lovely hippie, arty, often wealthy, yet weird neighborhood has gone too far and raised the real estate prices too much. No one else can afford to own a shop. A good friend of mine opened up a lovely shoe boutique just down the street. They sold designer shoes. Both she & her partner live in Venice. They were open for about 2 years and just closed because they couldn't sell enough to cover the rent. Within a year I fear that twice the number of stores will have valet, t-shirts will cost more than $200 and Abbot's Pizza will be a distant memory. Venice has a lot of history & heart. I didn't sign up to live in Beverly Hills or 3rd Street or even Santa Monica. Venice is my home.

In closing, here is a little taste of Intelligentsia's mission in creating the Venice coffeebar:
...another re-imagining of what a coffee experience can be...guests are not met with the standard experience of waiting in line. After passing through the iron gates facing the bustling boulevard, visitors walk down an ivy-covered hall open to the sky where they are greeted at a butcher block “concierge desk.” From this point, they are taken to one of four custom-fabricated espresso machines where their espresso drink or coffee-by-the-cup is prepared. The idea is for a barista to stay with one person throughout the interaction to create an individualized experience for every customer, regardless of how many are being served.

Intelligentsia hired Ana Henton of MASS Architecture & Design to execute the Venice coffeebar. Henton created a space that contains very little in the way of defined seating, and there is no counter or register, which will create a more communal sense of setting.

1 comment:

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