Oakland North spotlight: Cafe Underwood

Video Editing by Nina Zou, Camera work by Alissa Greenberg & Justin Whiteman

Dominick Scala found the inspiration for his new cafe-workspace hybrid in his own experience as a freelance writer, camping out for hours at a time in cafes with sub-par food, expensive coffee and a dearth of electrical outlets. He decided to start a cafe specifically aimed at professionals who work part- or full-time from home, and Cafe Underwood was born.

The cafe is already receiving a warm welcome from the surrounding community. Specialty items like Howling Wolf cold-press coffee are garnering rave reviews, and nights are busy with an after-work crowd drawn by free-flowing beer and wine.

Scala invested time, money and sweat into renovating the old Anderson Carpet building on a rough stretch of 41st Street in north Oakland. “I went with the natural elements, and I wanted to use the space for whatever it was worth. So when I came in there I just had the landlord rip everything out,” Scala said. With the help of a metalworker he designed the Cafe’s high ceilings, open plan and wood accents, as well as its signature deck seating.

He hopes to institute a formal co-working system in the future to capitalize on the needs of businesspeople working in his cafe–meeting spaces, high-speed internet lines and other office supplies are ideas he’s suggested.

Tucked into an area between Temescal and Piedmont that some are calling “the Jewel Box” for its gem-themed streets (Opal, Emerald, Ruby, Garnet), Cafe Underwood has arrived on the scene in the midst of large-scale urban renewal. Recent years have been very prosperous for local businesses: within a square mile of the cafe, a potential customer can choose among more than ten cafes. The map above shows Cafe Underwood’s location, as well as its direct competition.


  1. Safeway

    Does he have to pay the city of oakland for the sidewalk space that was taken over by his business?

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