Communal Coffee creates community
Walking into Communal Coffee is like walking into the living room you’ve always wanted. Curated by owner Jennifer Byard, the coffee shop has become a popular spot for students and neighbors to sip quality roasts among friends. Byard lived in the North Park/South Park area for eight years before opening the trendy coffee shop on the corner of Texas Street and University Avenue in North Park.
Communal Coffee opened last May and received a warm welcome from the community. Byard explained that she and her staff did not expect the shop to be so popular when it first opened.
“The first weekend that we opened, we ran out of coffee,” Byard said. “We had under ordered and didn’t think it would be that busy from the get-go.”
The shop is flanked by hanging succulents, white walls, and a large mural emblazoned with the phrase “Coffee + Flowers.” This sign has become an Instagram staple for students and neighbors alike.
University of San Diego Sophomore Kateri Theisen visited Communal Coffee after seeing the “Coffee + Flowers” sign on social media.
“I found out about Communal Coffee because a friend of mine posted an Instagram of the sign, and I had to see the rest of the place,” Theisen said. “The feel of the shop is so cute. The people are really nice, and I love that they sell flowers too.”
The shop is a collaboration between Communal Coffee and Native Poppy, the flower shop housed inside the building. Communal Coffee and Native Poppy are directly next to North Park Nursery, which offers outside seating in a garden setting for coffee drinkers to enjoy.
Byard noted that her background in business and design helped her create a unique coffee shop. Her vision was a place that would not only stand out against others like it, but also offer the community a space in which to interact with one another and its local baristas.
“I wanted to take the creative side of the other businesses I’ve worked in and combine that with a product I really care about and believe in, [namely] coffee, and build a place where people can really feel connected to their community,” Byard said.
Byard is a Seattle native whose mother owned her own coffee shop in the ‘90s. This close relationship with coffee culture influenced her choice of roaster, San Francisco-based Sightglass Coffee.
“Coffee runs through my blood,” Byard said. “Seattle and Portland definitely have a different type of roast than we do down here, so I wanted something that represented what Southern California was producing, which is a little more of a medium roast.”
Communal Coffee is the first San Diego brewer of Sightglass Coffee. Byard explained that the roaster has brought more customers to the shop.
“It’s fun serving Sightless here because there are so many people living in San Diego from the Bay Area,” Byard said. “We have some customers who drive across the city for a cup because we’re the only Sightglass account in San Diego right now.”
The menu and coffee selection are carefully crafted to maintain the locations unique and quality characteristics.
“We want everything to be unique, so we make all the purees and syrups in house,” Byard said. “I’m really proud of our pumpkin spice: it tastes really pumpkiny as opposed to tasting more spicy, like other blends. We’ll introduce two more new drinks closer to Christmas.”
As it grows in popularity, Communal Coffee will also add more to its menu, including more breakfast items and a few lunch selections.
Situated between the hubs of North Park and Hillcrest, Communal Coffee provides the surrounding community with a coffee shop close enough to walk to. The addition of Native Poppy and the shop’s location next to the North Park Nursery have bolstered foot traffic in the area, benefiting each of the businesses. Byard chose the location and collaborative elements carefully.
“Because I have a background in design, I knew that the aesthetic of our place would be unique and different, then you add in the combination of coffee and flowers.,” Byard said. “Our initial success is that a lot of people now have a place to walk to, and our growing popularity on social media brought us a lot of folks from out of the neighborhood.”
Communal Coffee has become a popular study spot for students and a welcoming place to meet friends and get to know the surrounding community. Byard said she specifically curated a space in which customers could see the baristas and florists work while enjoying quality food and drinks.
“I didn’t want it to feel like an internet cafe,” Byard said. “We built the bar so that there’s no barrier between the baristas and the customers to make it feel like a community table.”
Barista Maria Gilbert has worked at Communal Coffee since its inception and talked about her experience there.
“I actually closed on the first day,” Gilbert said. “I saw them working on the shop and I immediately knew I wanted to work here. I lived two blocks away from here, and now I legitimately serve my neighbors coffee, which is what I love the most about this job.”
The business has already hosted several community events including their Fall Bash and various craft workshops to further welcome people into the space.
Students at USD prefer to study in the open, welcoming space of the coffee shop. Theisen also explained that she enjoys venturing off campus to study and explore San Diego.
“Because I live on campus, it’s really nice to get away, even if it’s just to do schoolwork,” Theisen said. “I definitely prefer studying off campus.”
Sophomore Becca Lancaster also enjoys studying off campus.
“I prefer to study off campus because there are fewer distractions and I’m not as tempted to go back to my room and relax,” Lancaster said. “I don’t actually drink coffee, but the tea and food at Communal Coffee is amazing. It’s a great place to hang with friends, and if you prefer to study in a coffee shop setting, Communal Coffee is a great replacement while Aromas is under construction.”
Junior Karinn Uppal also frequents Communal Coffee while Aromas is under construction.
“Communal Coffee is one of the most aesthetically pleasing coffee shops I’ve been to,” Uppal said. “Working on campus is completely different this year since Aromas is under construction and being renovated. I’m really glad I discovered Communal Coffee.”
Many students come for the coffee and stay for the ambiance, as the shop is perfect for afternoon studying or relaxing among friends. The prices are close to those of other shops nearby, and the many prefer the drinks to those offered on campus. Theisen noted that her passion for coffee often takes her off campus.
“To say I love coffee is sort of an understatement,” Theisen said. “Honestly, the coffee on campus is not the best, so Communal Coffee is a nice deviation from my regular black cup of Folgers.”
While it is a few miles away from campus, Communal Coffee is a fantastic study spot that will welcome students back for every midterm review and early morning study session.
Written by Kelly Kennedy