Handsome wood surfaces, furniture and accents are often incorporated into the interior designs of coffee shops to create senses of warmth, earthiness and authenticity — all to create a cozy environment in which to sell coffee.
In the case of one new coffee shop in San Diego’s Morena neighborhood, it’s actually the coffee that helps sell the wood.
Claro Coffee overflows with seating, tables, shelving, surfaces and artwork made by skilled hands out of salvaged and live edge wood. The coffee shop serves as the showroom at the front of Made Lumber, a San Diego specialty wood and lumber shop whose services include custom furniture, installations and supply in a range of woods, including everything from sycamore and cedar to 3,000-year-old redwood or prized claro walnut.
Jon Boyd, a partner in both ventures, told Daily Coffee News that, prior to the coffee shop, there would be signs reading “do not touch” on the wood pieces on display, which wasn’t particularly endearing or engaging. Boyd said that while company founder Brian Grasela had long intended to experiment with a coffee shop at the front of the house, it was only after the team had grown to three people — Grasela, Boyd and Jorge Diaz — that there was the time and bandwidth to pursue it.
“We made all the furniture, the whole buildout was done by us,” said Boyd. “Now people can actually come in, get a coffee, sit at one of our tables that we made and we don’t have to worry about saying ‘do not touch.'”
Boyd said the team took particular pleasure in designing the coffee shop as a whole, rather than contributing one or two pieces of furniture or fixtures to a room. Plus, they get to enjoy some of their own craftsmanship.
“Before we’d finish a table, deliver it to a client, and then you never see it again,” said Boyd. “It’s cool to see our furniture actually getting used in the coffee shop. People can see it, they’re like ‘wow that’s really cool,’ and we say, ‘well, we can make you one.'”
Tools of the coffee trade on the Claro bar include a La Marzocco Linea AV espresso machine, Mazzer grinders and a batch brewer made by Wilbur Curtis. Consultation, equipment and roasted coffees come by San Diego-based Zumbar Coffee & Tea, whose Hummingbird blend is the house brew at Claro.
“Making a piece of furniture takes longer than a cup of coffee, but if you half-ass the cup of coffee, it’s going to taste like crap, and if you half-ass the furniture, it’s going to look like shit,” said Boyd. “Attention to detail and consistency on both — that’s going to keep people coming back.”
Diaz’s Cuban background informs a simple, espresso-focused menu that includes several Cuban-style drinks, including a cortadito and café con leche. The drip coffee, too, is encouraged to be enjoyed in smaller doses with purity in mind. Cold brew is available in 16-ounce servings, but anything hot is served in 12-ounce cups or smaller.
“We’re not pouring 20-ounce pumpkin spice lattes,” said Boyd. “Our coffee is strong, it’s flavorful, it’s quality.”
The Claro Coffee bar is now open at 5334 Banks Street, Suite A, in San Diego, California.