This New Black-Owned Oakland Coffee Shop Hopes to Be a Gathering Place for the Community
“How do you maintain what Oakland was?” That’s a question attorney Creighton Davis, an Oakland native, has pondered as he’s seen his hometown change over the past few decades. He misses the days when he’d be out with his dad, who’d point someone out and say, “That’s our kinfolk.”
The desire to celebrate the sense of connection that Oakland’s Black families once enjoyed inspired Davis, along with friends Nicole Reyes and Akintunde Ahmad, to create Kinfolx, a community-focused coffee shop and wine bar. They hope Kinfolx will become a neighborhood gathering place when it makes its soft opening on November 4. “There needs to be more spaces that are welcoming to folks,” says Ahmad, a journalist and third-generation Oaklander. “Coffee and wine is a cool way to do that.”
The Kinfolx team is easing into full operations, planning to open on Fridays only for the month of November, as they get menu details and staffing sorted, Davis says. The trio is new to the restaurant industry, so they’re relying on friends and community connections to shape the offerings. Davis says they’ll source coffee from Bellwether Coffee, a Berkeley coffee startup that uses electric roasters to minimize environmental impact. They’re partnering with Arizmendi for pastries and featuring small bites from a rotating cast of local chefs including Geoff Davis of the modern soul food pop-up Burdell, Reyes, an entrepreneur and artist, shares. Davis says future menu additions will reflect the founders’ and staff’s family culinary traditions. Reyes is half Filipina and Davis’ mother is from Czechoslovakia, and always has a pot of soup on the stove, for instance.
When Kinfolx opens, patrons can enjoy cold brew, specialty drinks, and espressos pulled on the sky-blue Marzocco. Then they’ll expand into wine service: Consultant Swan Dotson has filled their opening wine list with natural wines like Broc Cellars’ dry white zinfandel; a juicy red grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre blend by Land of Saints; and a sparkling skin-fermented falanghina from Seabold Cellars. Reyes says they’ll add wines by Black producers in the near future.
The process of designing Kinfolx’s physical space has been a community effort, too. Oakland interior designer Ashley Williams of Wanderlust Aesthetic Design Studio came up with a design scheme that pairs blue velvet sofas and burnt orange barrel chairs with coppery industrial stools and natural wood tables. Plants are selected by Janay Masters of Hella Plants Market: A fringe of philodendron and variegated pothos dangle over the main counter, while a fiddle leaf fig and dracaena reach for the light streaming in the large windows. The back of Kinfolx is a gallery space that houses rotating exhibitions by local artists. The current show by Damien McDuffie features vintage family pictures that come to life with augmented reality, once you download the Black Terminus app. The permanent collection will include bright panels from local artist Lenworth McIntosh, aka Joonbug; the series adorned boards that secured the Fox Theater during the pandemic shutdowns.
Eventually, the owners hope to offer programs like book discussions, as well as coffee and wine tastings. But in the meantime, a row of outlets with USB charging ports around the room’s perimeter signals that they want people to bring their laptops, get comfortable, and hang out.
The spark that led to Kinfolx came after Davis and Ahmad passed the vacant former Teatulia Tea shop near 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue, a neighborhood that’s gentrifying rapidly. “There are so many places that don’t have a history or a respect for the area, and a target demographic that is not Black people or brown people or the kind of people who are products of our public school system,” Ahmad says. “I was like, it would be dope to see someone from the city open a space that centers the experience of people who have been born and raised here.”
Seeing the influx of new businesses into Oakland including Shake Shack, a restaurant inspired by hot chicken created by Nashville Black chefs, and soon the mobile payments company Square, they knew someone else would snag the space if they didn’t. And once it opens, Davis looks forward to Kinfolx being a catalyst for connection. “It’s striking to me how many amazing people are here in Oakland, that kind of just miss each other,” says Davis, a mover and shaker who’s active in philanthropy and the Oakland community policing advisory board. “And, you know, I really do believe this space can be that point where that connection happens.”
Kinfolx (1951 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) soft opens Friday, November 4 and will be open 8 a.m to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday through November. Days and hours are expected to expand soon, stay updated through the group’s Instagram @Kinfolx.
Akintunde Ahmad, left, Nicole Reyes, center, and Creighton Davis of Kinfolx in Oakland.