This week we're featuring Santa Barbara's Low Pigeon Coffee. Low Pigeon opened its doors last year after Bay Area coffee professional Dennis Medina teamed up with Matt Pigeon and Rich Low. “Low, Pigeon, and Medina began roasting coffee together at their first introduction in 2018 while planning to open their first café location in Santa Barbara,” Carrie Nelson tells Sprudge. Nelson works for NYLAH Studio and manages Low Pigeon's marketing and design. “Since the 2019 opening, Low Pigeon has focused their attention strictly on coffee roasting and brewing. From their wholesale operations and ‘to-go' style espresso bar, the coffee quality and customer experience are always at the forefront of Low Pigeon’s day-to-day operations.”
“Today, the white stucco building, most recognizable by its black and white striped awnings, houses a shop just large enough to fit a roaster, espresso bar, and a takeout counter. Outside, succulents and palm trees that shade a casual patio furnished with cafe tables and chairs make Low Pigeon cool, comfortable, and convenient all at once,” says Nelson.
Sprudge spoke with the team at Low Pigeon to talk about their design, how things are going here in 2020, and what a perfect day in Santa Barbara might look like.
Who is on the team?
Aside from Dennis Medina, Rich Low, and Matt Pigeon, our newest member of the team is Jason Roque. Jason recently took on the role of Low Pigeon’s General Manager and Director of Education. Jason’s roots in coffee echo the beginnings of San Francisco’s early specialty coffee scene, as he was nurtured in coffee theory from the early days at Ritual and Sightglass Coffee. Fun fact: Jason and Dennis (our roaster & owner) first met when working together at Sightglass in 2011!
Tell us about the changes you've made since the COVID-19 shut down in March.
Coincidentally, the Low Pigeon setup was perfect for a pandemic, in that people could get coffee to go quickly and safely. We have one food item on our menu, outdoor seating only, and a “to-go” style espresso bar – so little change was needed to the overall structure of Low Pigeon. Of course, we amped up our cleaning/sanitization, enforced a strict “No Mask, No Coffee” policy, and added markers so customers can stand 6ft apart while waiting on line. We added some new “COVID” friendly products including a 750ml cold brew concentrate bottle and made-to-order merchandise. We also now offer local delivery through our website, where customers can order coffee beans and bottled cold brew to be delivered the next day.
How are y'all doing here now in September?
In all honesty, we can't complain. Of course, we had to push back some of our plans for this year, although we're hanging in there!
Tell us about your branding!
Designed with the brand's DNA in mind, Low Pigeon's visual identity runs parallel to its coffee operations. The interior of our shop is black and white; we’ve chosen to not have any art or extreme personality present in our cafe. We’re true believers in minimalism and thoughtful design. Since our brand concept was new to Santa Barbara, we knew simplicity would be key to getting our purpose across to customers.
We believe that presenting coffees with this intent eliminates unthoughtful and senseless branding, making for more impactful and enduring consumer relationships. We put our brand at the forefront of everything we do.
Choosing the right design agency was one of the important decisions we made as a brand. After much research, we decided to work with Carrie Nelson from NYLAH Studio, a design agency from NYC, now located in Santa Barbara. NYLAH has extensive experience in hospitality and food/beverage branding and minimalistic design.
It’s easy to look at our branding, or walk into our cafe, and say that minimalism is an “easy-to-do” technique. Some people won’t get our intentions and that’s totally okay with us. We actually have a negative Yelp review from a customer appalled with our lack of decor. Specifically, she called us “underwhelming” and it couldn’t be more accurate. Being able to remove the right amount of “fluff” is an art and of itself. When executed correctly, minimalism is an extremely intricate and thoughtful process.
From our logo to our print design, to coffee packaging, to interiors, minimalism is prevalent throughout. In our minds, minimalism is about removing all of the unnecessary elements and focusing on the product (our coffee) and how it’s communicated to our customers.
Did you work with a design team?
Yes. We work with Carrie Nelson from NYLAH Studio Santa Barbara for all branding/marketing including packaging, print materials, website/e-commerce store, social media, etc.
When will your merch be available?
As of now, all of our merch on our website is made-to-order. We stock some items at our Santa Barbara flagship, and the rest is available through e-commerce.
Where is your coffee currently available?
You can find Low Pigeon at Santa Barbara’s top restaurants and hospitality groups including ACME Hospitality (Helena Avenue Bakery and The Lark), Hook & Press Donuts, The Good Lion Hospitality Group (The Good Lion, Shaker Mill, Test Pilot, Venus in Furs, and Bank of Italy (coming winter 2020), Bettina Pizzeria, Blue Owl, Sama Sama Kitchen, Welcome Coffee Cart, and Revolver Pizzeria.
When travel opens up again, how should we spend the day in Santa Barbara?
The perfect day in Santa Barbara starts with coffee and breakfast at Helena Avenue Bakery. Helena is a homestyle artisan bakery and kitchen that brings together wholesome, homemade specialties using the highest quality ingredients found along the Central Coast. They offer rustic, organic bread, handmade seasonal pastries made from scratch and a wide variety of gourmet breakfast and lunch items made to order. After fueling up on breakfast, it's time to take a stroll around The Funk Zone. This neighborhood is a hub for arts, dining, wine and spirits, retail and business, hotels, gorgeous scenery, and unique culture. Only one block away from Helena, you’ll find the infamous pier and beaches of Santa Barbara.
Hike up The Inspiration point trail for the best panoramic views of the city. When you’re done, it’s back into town for lunch. Head to Bettina Pizzeria in Montecito, order your pizza to go, and enjoy it in The Santa Barbara Mission. The Mission is considered to be one of the most beautiful missions in all of California. Spread out and enjoy a pizza picnic surrounded by beautiful rose gardens.
Before dinner, hit up The Good Lion bar with its eclectic selection of cocktails, especially the Low Pigeon Negroni (not biased or anything). Then it’s off to dinner back in the Funk Zone to the restaurant that started it all, The Lark. The Lark’s menus are locally sourced and responsibility grown, using the highest quality seasonal ingredients based on the abundant bounty of the Central Coast. Their food is served family style intended for sharing. The Lark’s space was designed with an urban style that integrates vintage and repurposed materials for a sophisticated yet casual sensibility with a nod to our neighborhood’s industrial past.
Santa Barbara is surrounded by some of the best wine countries in California and is filled with tasting rooms scattered throughout the city. It would only be appropriate to finish off the night at Venus in Furs. Recently opened a couple of weeks ago, Venus in Furs is Santa Barbara’s first natural wine bar, cocktail bar, and bottle shop all in one.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.