Where did the idea for Pinhole come from?
I’ve been in the industry since 2002. At Blue Bottle, I started in 2006 and was their 8th employee bagging beans, working at the Kiosk (garage in Hayes Valley) and Farmers’ Market. I ended up managing the Kiosk for a few years and in 2012 move to NYC to help with some of their newer retail operations.
Pinhole was in my mind for the past four years, and I’ve actively been looking for spaces that long. Other spaces opened up earlier but fell through at the last minute. My experience in NYC gave me more of the ability to just do it; if you can be successful in New York than you can be anywhere. It gave me a lot of business sense, so finding this space was great and the spaces that fell through were stepping stones to get here. It just felt right, so it’s been in my mind for a while.
How did you come up with the name?
It just happened. I had a boss that did Pinhole photography in Chicago. I remember the time I was trying to think of names and wrote down things that I liked, but for some reason there was a turning point when I thought, “This is it!” This idea of taking something small and producing something big is symbolic. In a way, that’s what I envision the space to be.
Tell me more about your experience in the coffee world?
I’ve done a lot of different things in the coffee world. For Blue Bottle I started in production by bagging beans, I quickly became their catering manager for a bit, and eventually a retail manager. Other positions were baristaing and portering at numerous locations. Experiencing these skills gave me an appreciation of the entirety of it.
What are your initial thoughts on the importance of creative spaces?
A creative space stimulates people and really guides people through their entire experience. By having bright colors on the wall and that sensory stimulation, it furthers the experience of drinking coffee. In arranging the benches, I was mindful of having them against the walls so people would be looking at one another rather than having their backs towards one another. I paid a lot of attention to the flow of the space because Bernal Heights has a lot of strollers and I wanted the strollers to come into the space easily and not be blocked off by tables. We do have a communal table too so there are a few seats where everyone isn’t facing one another, but I think a communal table is nice for potentially pop-up dinners and other fun events.
Who did this mural?
My brother, Joey D. If you look at the logo it actually says Chicago 2011. There was a point of my life where I actually thought I was going to move back to Chicago. I did move back, got there and then immediately wanted to move back to San Francisco (did so in a couple of months). During that time my brother created the logo and that was the manifestation of real brainstorming. He flew over from Chicago to paint it, he didn’t finish so my friend Magnolia and Leah helped by skyping and texting. My other friend Leah Rosenberg did the wall behind us; she lives in Bernal Heights. She just approached me and said “I’d love to do your wall for you.” I never would’ve thought of doing something like this, but what’s great is that she grabbed colors from the neighborhood, she’s going to make a legend of the origins of the colors.
What are some of your favorite spots in San Francisco?
I like hiking in Lands End, running along Ocean Beach and my friends just opened a restaurant called Andytown in Outer Sunset that’s really special since they roast and bake on site. The Presidio and Presidio trails are amazing. I like to run a lot.
Restaurants: I like State Bird Provisions, Sushi Zone, Guddu de Karahi. The Ferry Building is also pretty special, especially knowing it was built pre 1906 earthquake.
Also, Bernal Hill which has the best 380 view of the city.
When you were younger, did you think you’d open your own shop?
Yes, there was something about coffeeshops that attracted me to them as a kid. Maybe it was the bohemian vibe. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago and I’d drive out to Chicago just to hang out at coffeeshops because they were cool. I wrote something in high school where it was like “What do you want” and I actually wrote that I wanted a coffeeshop where people can perform. I always knew, but not to this extent.
Is there a specific type of space you feel the most inspired?
Mount Shasta. They call it the root chakra of the earth. There’s something really calming and grounding about it. Just things in nature when you’re disconnected from the material things of life. There’s not that much pollution, the stars are so bright and you really feel a vortex of energy. It’s not interrupted by tech or anything; tech isn’t bad, I totally rely on it. I think really letting technology go and going back to the basics is important. Tech has been a huge resource for me opening Pinhole. It connected me with social media that’s so powerful. I was a marketing major in college in 2001 when we didn’t have social media and its effects. I just don’t think it should be the end all and be all. I love when people come into Pinhole and converse rather than work on laptops.
Any advice to those who would want to open their own coffee shop?
You will never know everything. It’s always a learning process even if it doesn’t feel great, you’ll can always have that end goal intention, but you don’t know the steps to lead to it. If you know what you want, you’ll get it. That’s beyond just owning a coffeeshop, but relates to everything in life. You shouldn’t get off that path or be distracted if things don’t go your way. Namaste. Haha.