In search of a great cup of coffee, Bree Dezort and Cali Kamala got tired of having to leave their home in the Diamond District just for their caffeine fix, so the couple dreamed up the Hive Cafe.
“This is our neighborhood, but there wasn’t anything that was good quality coffee so we always left,” says Bree, 32, whose fiancé Cali, has lived five minutes from the café for more than three years with her son.
About two years ago, soon after the couple got together, Bree and her daughter joined Cali and her son leaving foggy San Francisco behind for sunny Oakland. The couple’s children are both seven years old and love the café, said Bree, who showed GirlsThatRoam.com a video the kids made welcoming people to the Hive Café (2139 MacArthur Boulevard, 510-482-4483, firstname.lastname@example.org, Hive-Café.com).
“Finally, we just looked at ourselves one day and said, ‘Why? Why not here?’ Nine months later we opened,” said Bree.
Cali, who is a professor of economics at U.C. Berkeley, wasn’t available for the interview.
The Hive is the neighborhood’s newest café serving up high-end and nearly all organic coffee and teas along with local pastries and lunch items in the former Jackson Hewitt Tax Services location.
Since opening May 29, the East Oakland café is quickly becoming the neighborhood’s center with locals dropping in for meetings, studying, or just to grab an espresso and chat with the owners.
The couple invested upward of an estimated $240,000 of their own money along with a business loan from the Oakland Business Development Center, to convert the retail front into a café, said Bree.
The total renovation took nine months from the signing of the lease nearly a year ago to when they began construction at the beginning of the year, said Bree, describing the process to creating and raising a child.
Natural light now flows through the large pain windows into the café that was once shrouded by a sunken roof and raised floor. They also installed plenty of electrical outlets throughout the space for people to plug their electronic devices and to eventually power entertainment from comedy to music in the space. Comfortable chairs and sofas surround various size tables making it welcoming for people to gather and hang out.
The couple creates their menu in the half kitchen they installed, except for the coffee from Highwire Coffee Roasters and the pastries they order from Starter Bakery, both businesses are Oakland-based.
“We want to provide really good quality coffee in this neighborhood, and build a community,” said Bree.
The couple’s children also enjoy the café because it has a corner where they play with other neighborhood kids. The corner has been a hit with neighborhood parents who have begun to create a community within the café as kids play and parents hang out and chat over a cup of coffee.
The Hive’s convenient location near the corner of Fruitvale Avenue on MacArthur Boulevard also makes it a prime spot for morning commuters grabbing a cup of coffee before stepping onto the Transbay bus, busses heading to the Fruitvale BART station or onto the 580 freeway.
“We are getting great community response,” said Bree, as customers flowed in and out of the café stopping to say hello earlier this month. “Everybody has been really positive when they come in and really happy with what they are getting. It’s really all that we can hope for.”
Bree believes the couple opened the Hive at the right time.
The Diamond District is on the verge of a new renaissance and the Hive Café is “becoming the hive of community,” Bree said, for community gatherings and getting information about the neighborhood.
“It’s the right time for us to come in,” she continued, pointing out the new Thursday stroll through the Diamond event and other changes in the neighborhood.
Creating the Hive
In a couple of ironic twists, Bree and Cali met at Ritual Coffee in San Francisco, and two years later they opened their own coffee shop. Yet, it’s the name and the theme of the café that is the bee’s knees: Bree is allergic to bees.
Playing off of the name of their business entity, B-Royal, and what it meant to them, they came up with The Hive and its tagline, “the place to bee.” It stuck.
“The premise behind [B-Royal] is literally to be royal in who you are and how you treat people,” said Bree, a former customer service representative for Headsets.com in San Francisco.
Bree and Cali both have experience managing cafes and working in food service before entering their current careers and venture together, but nothing quite prepared them for the process of opening The Hive.
“It’s kind of like having a baby. We went through nine months of construction and grief and building and planning and getting ready for it and then we opened. Now it needs attention. It needs time. It needs care. It needs to be fed,” she said.
“We tease each other all of the time: ‘You know we had a baby together,’ because it’s literally that intense of a process,” Bree added, who is also currently in school full-time studying sound engineering at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville.
Somehow the couple has found a happy and healthy balance juggling their life between children, work, school, and managing the café with the help of four part-time employees well.
“We somehow found a way to balance [a] very healthily home versus here and its worked brilliantly,” Bree said with pride, adding that the couple and their children are at the café regularly and the employees get along inside and outside of The Hive.
Bree and Cali have big plans for The Hive. They are working on becoming certified as a green business offering high quality drinks, food and service while staying affordable and obtaining their cabaret so they can eventually host cabaret, comedy and intimate live music.