Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters has just opened a brand new coffee window in the Mission, located at 613 York Street, near 18th Street, in Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal. They are still very much in a soft opening situation, but they are slinging free coffee, espresso, and mini-baked goods right now for local walkups. Despite arriving right as a rush hit because a fire alarm in a local office building had gone off, co-owner Nick Cho and barista Bonney Johnson graciously took a bit of time to talk to me for this first look, in between serving customers and troubleshooting some roaster issues.
Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal is a commissary space that hosts several different businesses. Marla Bakery, Wholesome Bakery, and Wrecking Ball have their signs out front. The busy bakery was cranking out scones, cookies, and other unidentifiable things behind Bonney Johnson as she made coffee. The cafe is armed with a La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine and Vulcano grinder, along with a coveted Mahlkonig EK43 grinder and a Fetco for brewed coffee.
Mr. Cho was very positive on the energy of the new space: “Amy Brown and Joe Wolf [of Marla Bakery] have been doing this for a while. Hopefully we can learn something from them.” He went on, “I’ve been really interested in discipline lately. In a bakery you have to have so much discipline. We’re going to see if some of that will wear off on us.”
The Marla Bakery window isn’t supposed to be a pop-up or a temporary thing. Cho made sure to point out that fact: “Nothing’s permanent,” he told me, “but no, this isn’t a temporary space.” It’s an exciting environment for Wrecking Ball to call home; a simple, neighborhood spot in a part of the Mission that is a mixture of offices and light industry, off the main commercial drags of Valencia and Mission. It’s a few blocks from the Heath Ceramics Blue Bottle location, and it will no doubt make it onto plenty of coffee tourists’ itineraries.
We got a brief chance to talk about Mr. Cho’s current views on the industry, before he zipped off to troubleshoot some roaster issues. “Frankly, I’m a little tired of novelty,” he told me. “What’s missing is institutionalized education where coffee professionals can learn foundational knowledge. In the culinary industry, even if you don’t go to culinary school, you’re still living in a world where there is culinary school. In coffee you might meet a professional who is simply lacking some basic knowledge – that’s like a piano player who just doesn’t know how to play a section of the keyboard. It just doesn’t make any sense.” [Mr. Cho is well known for having a plethora of opinions on the industry, coalescing around his active and indispensable @NickCho Twitter profile. For evidence of such, please see Wrecking Ball's very explicit and serious "comp" policy, documented below, put up in response to a recent post by 2007 World Barista Champion and ersatz specialty coffee ombudsman, James Hoffmann. -ed.]
Nick Cho and Trish Rothgeb of Wrecking Ball are obviously passionate about coffee. It’s exciting to see these two industry luminaries – she’s been a renowned roaster and coffee quality educator for over a decade, he’s an influential cafe owner and thought leader – set their sights on a practical, modest project like this. Mr. Cho mentioned they would love to open a lab, and a roaster, and a shop, but that they didn’t really have an interest in embracing a business model that would support that kind of operation. In so many words, Cho told me that the goal here is to do something simple and to do it well, every time, day in and day out.