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South Park sips

Posted: March 23rd, 2018 | News, Top Story | No Comments

Sara Butler | Editor

Local coffee shop debuts second location

What do you get when you put a 1959 Shasta trailer, sheepskin rugs, and a flight of flower-flavored lattes in a vacant lot? The newest coffee shop in Uptown.

On March 13, Communal Coffee — brainchild of founder Jen Byard — opened its second location in South Park, a long-vacant 2,000-square-foot lot at 2221 Fern St.

Jen Byard, founder of Communal Coffee, renovated an old trailer into an espresso bar for her new South Park location. (Photo by Sara Butler)

“I wanted a space that was both beautiful, served great coffee, and also really a welcoming environment for the community,” Byard said. “I really want people to feel like it’s their space and have it be a meeting place for South Park.”

Communal Coffee’s first location — a famously busy cafe in North Park on the corner of University Avenue and Texas Street — has been an Uptown coffee staple since May 2016.
South Park’s spot has many similarities to the first location, such as white decor, plants and flowers, and green umbrellas.

However, the new espresso bar, shop and community space is entirely outdoors. Rather than building a brick-and-mortar cafe, Byard set up shop in an old, restored trailer, which sits on the rented, renovated lot.

Front view of Communal Coffee’s shop on Fern Street (Photo by Sara Butler)

Years ago, Byard “got a wild hair” and bought the 1950s Shasta winged trailer on a whim for $1,400 in Arizona. It was originally red and white, as well as piled to the ceiling with garbage. Though it needed work, she could visualize the fixer-upper from the get-go.

Once the South Park vision came into focus, she dove headfirst into the project, enlisting the help of several carpenters, a handyman, a plumber, and an electrician.

Byard designed the vehicle and painted all of the gloss in white, Communal Coffee’s trademark color. She also hired a local artist, Rebecca Eichten, to paint a flower mural on the inside wall that greets customers when they walk up to the counter.

Shiloh, Communal Coffee’s general manager, serves a customer at the window (Photo by Sara Butler)

The trailer took six months to build out and an additional three weeks to set up at the new location, Byard said. The trailer is self-enclosed, meaning that all waste and water is on the trailer rather than regulated by the city.

“[We] had to figure out how to fit those health department standards within a 15-by-7-[foot] shop, so that was challenging,” she said. “And now that we’re open, we’re definitely going to have to tweak things here and there just to make it work.”

In addition to their signature lattes, the South Park location features pastries from Nomad Donuts, a North Park eatery. (Courtesy of Communal Coffee)

The trailer is a fully functioning espresso bar that serves all of the trademark Communal Coffee flower coffees. These include the Lavender Honey and Rose Vanilla lattes, which are also available in a taster flight. Though the new location offers limited food items, the South Park spot has also added pastries from Nomad Donuts to the shop’s traditional menu.

Though the trailer is the focal point, the new coffee shop is not confined to the modest size of the vehicle. It aims to serve as a community space, offering scattered seating of picnic tables with green umbrellas and chairs draped with sheepskin rugs; a small retail section featuring a flower cart from Native Poppy, the floral business who Communal Coffee shares its North Park space with; and a black-and-white tiled stage.

The stage — a raised platform to the right of the lot — is utilized as an additional seating area during store hours. Byard said that she envisions concerts, movie nights and other events happening on the stage and hopes to start planning them in the warmer months.

Though Communal Coffee has already decorated the lot with the brand’s green thumb signature of succulents, cacti and plants, Byard said that she hopes to add more greenery to the space. She plans to install planters and trellises and has already planted climbing roses along the front-facing fence.

“I think once these vines get mature and grow in, it’s going to really feel like a room,” she said. “So that’s what I really was going for — that [the shop] feels like it’s outdoors but also kind of cozy and enclosed at the same time. It’s just going to take a little time to grow.”

The black-and-white tiled stage serves as additional seating during store hours. (Photo by Sara Butler)

When thinking of expanding her business, the South Park resident wanted to bring her brand closer to home. As luck would have it, she secured a lot in her neighborhood — one block away, to be exact.

Currently, Byard lives in South Park with her husband and three sons. She notes that one of the neighborhood’s best qualities is the family-friendly aspect. She regularly frequents the local businesses lining Fern Street with her family and hopes to collaborate with some of them in the future.

“It’s just fun to know all of those people [and] they know us,” she continued. “It’s like every restaurant around here is like ‘Cheers’ — everybody knows you.”

While the North Park spot is frequented by all ages, it can often draw a younger crowd, as not many families live near University Avenue, a famously busy street. Byard envisions the new location to draw a lot more families and has already seen a lot of friendly faces at the shop.

Community members at the location’s grand opening party, which was held during the South Park Walkabout on March 17 (Courtesy of Communal Coffee)

“Most of these people [who visit the South Park location] are my neighbors,” she said.

Though it has only been a week, Byard noted that the community response has been positive so far and looks forward to the continued growth.

“I’m really hoping [our shop] brings more of a morning crowd to the businesses here in South Park,” Byard said. “There’s a great afternoon and evening crowd already but there’s not a ton to do in the morning, so I think this will help.

“Everyone is so excited that we’re here. South Park is actually a little low on coffee especially since Rebecca’s [Coffee House] closed,” she continued. “It’s nothing like North Park where there’s like five [coffee shops] on every block. I think it’s a need that we’re happy to be filling.”

Communal Coffee South Park is open 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. For more background on Jen Byard and the North Park location, read our previous coverage at bit.ly/2DH3CyP.

—Reach Sara Butler at sara@sdcnn.com.

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