By Kathy Chouteau
Red Bay Coffee Roasters, the first coffee shop to swing open its doors in downtown Richmond in two decades, has officially opened for business.
The coffee shop, which makes its home in the new industrial chic Richmond Food Hall within the Richmond Business Hub at 1503 Macdonald Ave., celebrated its Grand Opening Friday, June 14, 2019. On hand for the special occasion were a bevy of local celebrants and a host of Red Bay Coffee staff, including Founder/CEO Keba Konte.
The day’s plans included tunes from DJ Bryson Wallace in the afternoon, along with swag and coffee drink giveaways.
The Rich Life caught up with Konte at the Grand Opening, who relayed that Red Bay Coffee first opened in 2014 in Oakland’s Fruitvale District.
“Our mission is to bring more diversity to the specialty coffee industry,” said Konte. “We import and roast coffee from around the world and we have several cafes, three in Oakland, one in San Francisco and now one in Richmond. We’re also a wholesale business, so our coffee can be found at Whole Foods and at most of your giant tech companies.”
According to Konte, he’s a Bay Area native who has been coming to Richmond since he was a child, when his father would take him to The Plunge.
But what made him want to expand his coffee business to Richmond?
“Richmond is really underserved in regards to specialty coffee,” said Konte. “This particular location is overlooked, I think it’s just a fantastic opportunity. It’s downtown Richmond—and I’ve been told there hasn’t been a new coffee operation here in over 20 years—we’re right next to Kaiser, right next to the Social Security Office, right next to BART, Amtrak and I think Richmond is one of these unsung hero cities…that deserves love and some nice things.”
As it turns out, the former visual artist infused his latest coffee shop’s design with his own artistic aesthetic.
“What you see in Red Bay Coffee—even the design of putting a coffee shop in a shipping container—is an artistic statement,” said Konte when asked if he would tie the arts into his new coffee shop in some way.
“It’s conceptual because Richmond is a port city and shipping containers play an integral role to this port city and also the port city of Oakland, so [the arts] are really manifested in that way,” he added.
Konte also had a hand in the overall look of the entire Richmond Food Hall’s design.
“We’re in this fantastic place and we helped conceptualize the entire food hall with all the shipping containers,” said Konte. “It’s part of our design repertoire. We were recently funded by some pretty serious venture companies and will be bringing these shipping container concepts to Los Angeles and Atlanta and so what you’re seeing here is really a beta test for what we’ll be rolling out on a national scale.”
On the heels of Red Bay Coffee’s Grand Opening, per Konte, will be a company-driven community art project at the Richmond location that should get started sometime this month.
“We will do a big art photo mural on the door [of their shipping container business],” he said. “An archival image that really speaks to the history of Richmond, so that it will be a community interactive, participatory process…People will gather around and help with the process.”
So what is one of Konte’s favorite coffee drinks to savor from his company’s shop?
“Charcoal latte, unique to Red Bay Coffee,” he said. “It’s a very striking drink—back to how my art infuses the menu, operation and experience. The charcoal is made from burnt coconut shells and it has a lot of health benefits. It looks beautiful, it tastes really nice the texture is very interesting and pleasant and it’s a drink that you won’t find anywhere else in Richmond for sure.”
Red Bay Coffee is located at 1503 Macdonald Ave., Richmond, in the Richmond Food Hall.
It shares the Food Hall with Roux, and is located next door to CoBiz Richmond, a business incubator, co-working space and community networking center sponsored by Chevron’s eQuip Richmond Economic Revitalization Initiative. Hours of operation are Mon. through Fri. from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more here.