The Bay Area has long been a hotbed of the North American specialty coffee scene, with lately most of the excitement being focused in San Francisco and Oakland. But don’t underestimate the depth of coffee passion throughout the entire bay–in this entry in our Build-Outs of Summer series, we take a look at Devout Coffee, a startup micro-roaster that has just opened in a storefront in Fremont, CA, a town deep in the East Bay. Owners Jon Fisher and Steven Pape and co-founder and manager Anthony Pereira are currently roasting in the space, and have setup a temporary cart for coffee service in one half of the space as they navigate the regulations of permanent buildout in Fremont’s historic Niles district.
As told to Sprudge by Anthony Pereira.
Can you tell us a bit about owners Jon Fisher and Steven Pape? What’re their backgrounds? Where are they from?
Jon’s always lived in Fremont, CA. Tested out of high school and started working at a local coffee shop, Mission Coffee. This is really where Jon started to become interested in coffee shops and coffee in general. When he left Mission Coffee he went to work for the father of Stevie’s future wife, Kindsey, at a vinyl/print shop. While working there Jon became a youth pastor at Harvest House, the church Stevie and Kindsey also attended. He’s still the youth pastor today.
Stevie grew up in Castro Valley, CA with two brothers and a sister. His family found Harvest House when he was a young teenager. This is actually where Stevie’s sister, Naomi, and Jon met and started a relationship that would eventually lead to marriage. Stevie was a car mechanic for a good amount of his later teens and early twenties. He loves working with machines and problem solving to see how to get something to work the way he needs it to. After a few years of being married Stevie became a carpenter working mostly with acoustical tiling for ceilings and he is still doing that.
For some history with the two of them and how they got the idea for Devout it all started in a garage. Jon and Stevie were going to Peet’s Coffee to get their fix and Jon just wasn’t quite satisfied so he figured he’d take his own shot at roasting some coffee. They started to experiment with some green coffee from Sweet Maria’s, a bread maker, and a heat gun. Unable to be fully satisfied with the results that setup was producing the two started to create their own roaster made out of a gas BBQ, two bread maker baskets welded together, and a pulley system powered but a taped down trigger of a hand drill.
Jon and Stevie started to frequent more third wave roasters in the SF Bay Area asking questions and increasing knowledge. From there it’s really grown into something of an obsession and has resulted in the start of a coffee roasting company and coffee bar.
What’s the Niles district like? Is it up-and-coming? Is it near a BART stop?
The Niles district is very interesting and full of character and history (history it tries a little too hard to hold on to). There is a lot of early silent and western film history here. A few of Charlie Chaplin’s films were shot here including The Tramp. Not ten years ago it was full of run down biker bars and wasn’t the best place to be any time of the day.
The Main Street Association of America got a hold of it and prettied it up a bit giving it a facelift. New streetlights, benches, sidewalks, that sort of thing. Since then the bars have mostly cleared out (we happened to be pinned up against one of the more famous ones, The Florence) and a great restaurant, The Vine, has started serving food and great beer. A custom bicycle shop is also moving in. There are mostly antique shops that flood the area. Niles is tucked away right off of Mission Blvd near the hills. There is a BART station about seven minutes away while driving and there are also some really good cycling trails around and we’ve seen a lot more bicycles pulling up lately.
You’ve got a few roasters – where are you sourcing your coffee from? What’s the approach to the coffee?
We source our coffee from a few different companies. We’ll pick up a coffee or two from Sweet Maria’s/Coffee Shrub if they’ve got something we really like. Most of our stuff is through Olam and Redfox. Stevie is actually our head roaster but we’ve all adapted a basic approach to roasting. We try to get rid of any kind of pre conceived idea or exact way of roasting. Obviously there are some general rules that we follow so that we don’t destroy our coffee. Basically, when we cup coffees we look for cleanliness and sweetness and the roasting is then focused on enhancing those qualities. Stevie says that he looks at it as trying to get the coffee in and out of the roaster as quickly as possible while still developing it correctly and finely. We usually carry one blend (not including decaf coffees which vary between single-origin and blends) and that blend is typically used as our espresso, though we’re all huge fans of singe-origin pulled as espresso and we occasionally feature those in the hopper. The coffees aren’t roasted darker or differently for the blends. We get the coffee to points that we love and then base the blends off of those profiles. We try to make sure that every drink is made to order and individually. The only thing that we have on tap is our cold brew iced coffee. Really it comes down to the name. We wanted one word that described how we felt about the entire coffee experience. We are devoted to making your coffee experience with us as great as possible.
The shop is open now and the space is in construction, yeah? What’s the timeline for everything?
I’m not sure if you could tell in the pictures but we have set up a false wall that cuts our location in half. The purpose to this was to use the cart which we already had and serve coffee via a temporary food facility permit as sort of a sneak peek while we deal with the building process. Unfortunately, Fremont doesn’t take too kindly to new small business and we’ve been having to fight for just their attention. Once we can get all of our plans cleared then we can have a better idea of when the full shop will open. We’re trying not to over promise and under deliver.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We use single origin chocolates from Tcho in all of our chocolate based drinks. Recently we’ve added Five Mountains Tea to our menu. They’re located in San Francisco and they source incredible teas. When we decided to use them they invited us over and we basically just talked and learned about tea for three hours. We felt like the same amount of attention that we put into serving our coffee should go into anything we do including teas. Each tea is brewed in the Silverton Coffee Brewer and we brew each tea to order. A local florist, Pedals of Love, found us and really liked our style so they’ve been hooking us up with new unique arrangements weekly. When the Health Department finally allows us to serve some pastries we will have a long time friend of ours, Jenessa How, bake fresh pastries for us every morning.
What’s the address and current hours of operation?
Our address is 37323 Niles Blvd Fremont, CA 94536. We are currently open 7am-2pm Monday-Friday, 8am-7pm Saturday, and 2pm-7pm on Sundays. We are quite lacking in staff resulting in the crazy hours. But they are subject to change and may be expanding within a few weeks.