"This is the story of a cappuccino," says John Ownes, the owner -- as well as the barista -- behind the Spaziale Vivaldi espresso machine at Cafeina Galeria, the new Silver Lake coffee shop that Ownes insists isn't really a coffee shop. "We're a gallery with one bitchin' espresso machine," he says, referring to the small coffee counter and adjacent patio that you might miss if you didn't turn down a narrow alley on a stretch of Sunset Blvd. occupied almost exclusively by auto repair shops.
Once you've figured out how to find the place -- a sandwich board on the sidewalk helps draw in foot traffic, mostly from European tourists with a built-in radar for outdoor patios -- you'll also find an apothecary and a vintage clothing shop. Together, the three mom-and-pop shops are marketing themselves under the name Stopping Station.
"It's where you refuel your cool," says Hot Mess Vintage owner Vanessa Eckels, whose storefront is most visible from the street. When we visited on a Sunday at dusk, the sign had yet to be posted and both Eckels and Ownes were gushing over the Tiffany blue paint they had picked out for the walls.
The co-op space, as they're calling it, is still very much in progress: Cafeina Galeria's official opening date isn't until Feb. 1, but Ownes recently staged his first by-invitation-only open mic -- an event he hopes will become a vibrant community tradition.
"I'm just a gallery space. Part of my art happens to be the coffee," says Ownes, who's also a playwright and a puppeteer. Making coffee "was always second nature, but at one point it became first nature and took over from my side pursuits." He no longer tells people he's trying to be a writer. "No, I'm a barista," he says. "I'm trying to make it."
Ownes grew up hanging around coffee shops like Nick's Café Trevi (now called CK Café) in Claremont, and later started making cappuccinos as a part-time dishwasher at Café Balzac in Azusa. But his real coffee training came from Klatch, an Upland-based coffee roaster and barista boot camp where he eventually taught workshops and churned out a new generation of baristas in between offering them a spot at his open mic nights.
Now in his own space at Cafeina Galeria, Ownes isn't the barista drill sergeant anymore, but some things haven't changed: he still brews Klatch espresso (House Blend, World's Best Espresso and El Salvador Orange Bourbon) and plans to start serving pour-over coffee ("it's black and sweet and beautiful on its own") in February.
To sign up or attend the next open mic on Feb. 6, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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