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.