Los Angeles is home to so much interesting coffee, in every imaginable configuration. Here’s one more: The Wheelhouse, a “bicycle and coffee lifestyle” cafe opening in the still-way-cool Arts District neighborhood. It’s hard not to fall for their design and vibe, and that’s no accident: The Wheelhouse has teamed up with some of the city’s very best creatives, from design to logo to ceramics. This place is like a who’s who of cool LA cafe detailers.
Our Build-Out features a trifecta of interviewees, including that darn Tyler Wells, whose name keeps popping up around high-profile new cafes in Los Angeles, including the excellent Superba Food + Bread in Venice, Arts District destination Blacktop, and the newly opened Civil Coffee brick & mortar in Highland Park. Plus, it’s a space found by renowned LA Arts District realtor Tyler Stonebreaker—truly, a dream team of modern Angeleno commerce.
As told to Sprudge by Chase Spenst, Tami Spenst, and Tyler Wells.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Chase Spenst: Sure! We are The Wheelhouse. We’re a vintage-inspired bicycle and coffee lifestyle store opening soon in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. Our focus is creating a community centered around great coffee and bicycles used for everyday life. The Arts District is going through a really exciting transformation right now. It’s becoming one of the few places in LA where people live, work, shop, and socialize all in one neighborhood. So far the development has happened in fragmented pockets, so our plan is to connect the neighborhood by bicycle. By showcasing the romanticized bicycle lifestyle in a beautiful and accessible way, we’re hoping to create a culture here that travels more on two wheels and less on four.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Chase Spenst: Finding the right space was really critical for us because of the larger ambitions of the business. It isn’t just about coffee or bicycles or a good service department—it is about connecting a community and we needed a space that could facilitate that. We had our eyes set on the Arts District from the beginning but we really struggled to find any available space. We reached out to Tyler Stonebreaker at Creative Space. He loved our idea and within a few days he had a couple locations lined up. It was incredible.
Tami Spenst: We immediately fell in love with this space. The roll-up doors were exactly what we wanted. We had dreamed of having indoor/outdoor space and there were plans for an outdoor deck. The overall floor space really allowed us the flexibility to create two cohesive, but separate experiences for the cafe and retail, which was important to us. We didn’t want to sacrifice one for the other or do neither of them particularly well.
Chase Spenst: One of my favorite parts is having the lofted area for our mechanic station. It creates a sort of a clubhouse feel for an area that cyclists love but can be intimidating for non-cyclists…
What’s your approach to coffee?
Tyler Wells: Making high-quality coffee easy and accessible. The whole mission of The Wheelhouse is to take a sometimes-intimidating experience and make it easy and fun. And it extends to coffee. We want people to feel welcome. We do all the nerdy hard work behind the scenes so the guests can just enjoy a drink.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Tyler Wells: I’m really excited about this bar. We’re working with Brian Pittman to do custom hot rolled steel for cabinets and counters. Everything is integrated and custom, from knock boxes to drain boards to pastry case and pitcher rinsers. The different workstations are at different heights for ergonometry (definitely a word) and it’s stunningly beautiful. The cherries on top are a La Marzocco Linea PB, Mazzer Robur grinders, a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder, and a batch brew from Curtis that I’m super excited about.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We plan to be open in September 2015.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We’ve been so lucky to work with a lot of incredible people who jumped on board to support us and help make it all happen. Tyler Wells / Nice Coffee Co has been our champion since the very beginning. He came on to design our coffee bar and program, but quickly became our expert advisor on all things related to this process (and life in general), our connector to other awesome people doing cool things, and our resident start-up therapist. The Creative Space, FE Design & Consulting, and JMI Construction teams have led us, charging through the build-out process. Melissa and Jonathan at A Question Of Eagles are hand making our beautiful ceramics. Brian Pittman / Empire is masterfully turning our dream coffee bar into a reality. RJ Guillermo at Type In Type Out listened to all of our stories and visions and adjectives and helped us weave them into The Wheelhouse brand. Tami Carey’s Pluck Interior Design team is designing the space which will be filled in, in part, with some amazing Yeah! Furniture and handmade pieces created by our super talented friends, Mark Skelly and Justin Scoltock.