feature : cofeee&art : gaslamp, san diego

It chose them and will choose you too. There’s everything to love about this far from bare space in the historic downtown Gaslamp district. The mid-block coffee shop owned by three family members welcomes you home even if it’s your first time here. Rui, Wayne and Sharne – the latter is Wayne’s Sister and Rui’s wife – coincide on the ethos of this space : great coffee and local art.

When Wayne and Sharne first walked down this street in the Gaslamp a couple of years ago, they passed by this space, a then closed coffee shop and something spoke to them. “We didn’t choose it, it chose us,” says Wayne. Within days, it was theirs. They all hail from South Africa and are widely traveled. Their worldly sensibility is evident in the walls textured touches , industrial lighting, and their choice of abstract art on and off the walls.

A smile is the code word here and theirs are quite contagious. The men are the shops only baristas- they pull your shots, foam your milk, make your acai bowls and will call you out by name and drinks as soon as you enter. As I sit among the morning regulars I feel like I should take off my shoes, get comfortable and join the conversation.

When I attempt to order my standard soy latte, Wayne convinces me to try their signature Vienese – it’s like a dirty chai – and boy does it woo me. The shot of espresso is full, colorful and blends nicely within the spices.

When I return later in the afternoon, I have a chance to sit on the concrete steps, chat with Rui and watch this near-the-border California town stroll by. I feel transported in this district where I imagine everyone knows my name too.

On my third visit, the charm is just the same. I sip espresso with Monday morning regulars. Wayne and I chat about the value of small independent spaces to the community and their mission to maintain their hangout as a social scene where they are the alternative experience. Isn’t that what an independent coffee shop is all about?

In South Africa, there is a saying the people use to encourage those to carry on their mission; Sharne shares it with me, “sing it sista!” And, I do, all the way home.

Coffee&Art Sounds Like Freshly Ground | Ma Cheri