You’d imagine that by this point, our friends & partners at Blue Bottle Coffee would have set up shop in San Francisco’s bustling downtown Financial District. With historic buildings peering down from above, the black and gold sheen of the Art Deco lobbies tucked away inside of them, and the legions of under-caffeinated office drones descending on the area each day—it just seems like a fit for the ever-expanding company. And yet for years, Blue Bottle stayed away. They tended their fires in other areas of the city, blossomed from a one-window kiosk to a global purveyor of high-end coffee, but the SF Financial District remained untouched by the brand. That time is now over.
Blue Bottle threw open the doors of its 115 Sansome store just last week, marking the brand’s first foray into the deep, dark of truly downtown San Francisco. The building that houses the new cafe was built in 1912, just six years after the devastating 1906 quake that leveled much of the city. The tile work, an almost carpet-like pattern of grey, green, and yellow, is completely original, the glow of history emanating up from them, and the building itself is still steam-heated, one of the few remaining such buildings in the city.
With that much history, you won’t blame Blue Bottle for allowing 115 Sansome to speak for itself. Yes, they’ve added a gleaming two-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and a selection of dark wood banquettes and marble-topped counters, but it doesn’t seem invasive. Sansome’s design feels architecturally complementary, from the iron gates that enclose the cafe—relics from its former life as a bank—to the curved tops of the 12-foot doorways that lead into the space.
These new Blue Bottle cafes in San Francisco are coming fast, with Sansome opening just two weeks after the company’s new Mid-Market location. The cafes are quite different; Mid-Market is simple, attractive but shed of frivolities—a place to come and get a cup of coffee, not stare at the 100-year-old tile work. 115 Sansome is a sort of minor “flagship” store, set up in a beautiful, tourist-friendly space, with a subdued dramatic flair to it that naturally draws a crowd. A crowd of 40 or so people queued up in the lobby on opening day. Early returns indicate that Sansome’s a hit.
To learn more about the 115 Sansome cafe, I spoke briefly with Chad Janowiak, Blue Bottle’s Director of Retail in Northern California. He is, as you might imagine, a busy dude, but not too busy to share more about life in the Blue Bottle whirlwind and some of the choices behind their latest cafe.
After a fairly long break from opening spaces in San Francisco, you’ve opened Mid-Market and now Sansome. Why the decision to open both so quickly?
With us it’s always a matter of finding that special location. A location that we get excited about in a neighborhood where we can be an integral part of the community. We have had some exciting real estate locations this year in the Bay Area for sure!
And was it always your intention to open Sansome so quickly after Market Square?
It’s not about the quantity of locations opening in a certain time period, it’s more about opening up beautiful spaces to serve great coffee to all who want it. This just worked out that we had Market Square and Sansome open within a couple weeks of each other—certainly an exciting time for us and the SF community.
How did you end up deciding on opening in the Financial District?
We’ve waited to find that perfect spot, and we have, with Sansome and Bush—the foot traffic, the energy of those who work and live in the area really make the space come to life.
The Financial District has a lot of great coffee in it now. Where does Blue Bottle fit in with that?
First and foremost it is our people. Our people and their sense of hospitality. They will be the first to welcome you with a warm, genuine smile and leave you with a want to come back and visit again. Our store manager, Tanner Borskey, has done an exceptional job in sourcing out an incredible team with various backgrounds from specialty retail to various coffee backgrounds.
What’s next for Blue Bottle in San Francisco?
We are really thrilled with the growth this year in 2015, no doubt 2016 will be equally energizing for all of us! We are focusing on the current growth of all our cafes and are looking to grow our training department and lab into even more space. We have equally exciting things happening with Perfect Coffee—stay tuned!