North Town Coffee
Article and Images by Katie Wheeler
1603 G Street, Arcata, CA 95521
There is a deck facing east against its house in North Town, all comfort and invitation framed by a brown railing, a view of the café folk from the road and out to the hills from within. It holds greenery and chunky wooden tables, sun umbrella begging for Sunday breakfast outside. The floor is four steps up from the sidewalk, by the wooden cup of coffee shingle edging it. This piece of art, like every bit of North Town Coffee, is quality craftsmanship and aesthetic pleasure. The cafe pulls on the environment and the location, a couple blocks from the north end of G street. This street was the original Redwood Highway route through Arcata, before the current four-lane divided highway moved the 101 sometime around 1960. You can walk here from HSU across the 17th street pedestrian bridge.
There have been a few different coffee houses here since before the century turned, but in the last year and some there has been a revival. The place is a draw, as it was over a decade ago. You can feel Northtown livening up. It is the classic café vibe, all sorts of folks coming and going. Some run in for a cup to go, others are here to write all day. It is a platform, a place to meet and express. A place to refuel.
Walk up the stairs and through the glass double doors to the beautiful bar and glass case. See your son’s Capoeira teacher at a table to the right, himself a student with Mestre Canguru from Brazil. Receive his kind greeting, sing the praises of how the classes span all ages and levels, incorporate history, language, music – culture, and spirituality. Then get back to scanning the freshly baked goods and amazing variety of drinks, the presentation a composition to appreciate.
Notice the art showcased on the bold, warm walls, some sort of multimedia collages that leave a sense of Georgia O’Keefe. The tables are full, people talking, writing, a few laptops. There is a vacant couch calling you and your organic homemade pie and cold pressed coffee. Go sit down.
Serg Mihaylo and Suzy Nye knew the right opportunity when they saw it a year and three months ago. “We had appreciated the vibe of Muddy Waters and I knew the lady who had owned A Couple Cups. When she put it up for sale we rallied together and took it from there,” says Suzy.
Suzy is from Eastern Washington, and went to college in Bellingham. She is a classic kind of beauty, beginning on the inside and shining through. The chunk of Amber around her neck seems to glow too. Suzy spent a lot of time traveling and some time in Oregon before coming back here to stay. A community of hometown friends live here; that was her original draw years back. Maybe the liveliness of Northtown Coffee is like its own little travel vortex.
“I decided to really be in a place and be involved in the community in a really positive way,” Suzy says. “And it has been great, we get to hang out here and we have a really awesome product that we feel really good about representing. There are always friends here. And it is a lot of work, but I know Serg and me and our family, we feel really good about what we are putting out there.”
Serg hails from the New York City area. He was drawn here over eight years ago, “by nature and outdoors – clean living.” He is sharp and aware, ready and willing. “I’ve had a good background with my family running restaurants back east,” he says. You can sense that, with all they have pulled together and are planning to pull together, it has taken a lot of work and know-how.
“This place, we want it to be a community hub,” says Serg. “To do meetings, come in and be comfortable. We want to keep it nice and we want it to be inviting and open. Gather and enjoy local and organic food and high quality drinks.”
Northtown Coffee is open 7 days a week, 7 – 9 on weekdays, 8 – 7 on weekends. On Fridays from 7 – 10 there is an all-acoustic open mic. Show up and share your poetry, music, dance, and your expression. Every month there is a local artist featured on the 1500 square-feet of walls. There is a list; call and get on it, show your work – throw a reception. There is the promise of other activity nights coming, including trivia, comedy, and game nights. This family-owned and operated business is just getting started.
You can’t help but come back for the food and coffee. “We have a gluten-free bakery,” says Serg. “We do organic stuff, that is what we focus on. Organic, non-gmo and local products. Organic quiches, some vegan food like our raw avocado pie and bliss balls. All made in-house. Cookies, pies, breakfast burritos, tacos, egg and cheese sandwiches….We use Muddy Waters coffee, he is all-organic and fair trade, Chris is a friend of ours. We do cold-pressed coffee; soak the beans for 24 hours. It is less acidic, has higher caffeine that is more assimilable.” “And we have It’s Alive Kombucha on tap,” Suzy adds.
Looking around the cafe, there are a lot of different folks. The whole place is eye candy. Arcata High School is five blocks west. “The high school kids come in for lunch,” says Serg. “We have a lot of local regulars too. We get to see friendships start here.” Of course there is WiFi.
“We are really interested in hosting special events, like meetings, groups, book clubs…we have a group that meets to write letters to political prisoners. We do a lot of different meetings like that: People that have groups and need a setting that’s chill and easy-going. People can call and reserve a time for free. Or just come in. We can do 10 to 20 people no problem, and we have big pots of tea and coffee for big groups.”
Suzy: “Cafes provide a space to share ideas.”
Serg: “An open space to express, like with the art showings. We want people to be able to come in here and share. Meet someone interesting. Draw some pictures.”