In the small triangular West Oakland neighborhood of Clawson which lies between Mandela Parkway and Adeline (also known as “Dogtown” by its residents, which includes me and my husband), the neo-soul food restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen is the lone notable eatery within walking distance from our home. While nearby Emeryville has a number of chain restaurants within its cluster of malls, there’s not much else until you venture over to the Korean fusion cuisine spot FuseBox in the adjacent McClymonds area. But more places are slowly springing up, including the restaurant 10th & Wood; Kilovolt Coffee is the latest welcome addition to West Oakland.
Co-owner Ethan Ashley founded his new venture through support from outside investors, several employees, and local residents. Necessity drove him to open the cafe in his Prescott neighborhood, a mile-long expanse that spans Mandela Parkway, the I-880 frontage road to the west and 7th Street in the south. When Ethan moved in from Berkeley in 2008, he realized, “There is no coffee! Brown Sugar Kitchen is too busy and the pretty lady doesn’t do to-go. I need coffee.”
He loves his building as “it’s right between the Bay Bridge and BART on Mandela. I tracked down the building owner at the county records office and pitched them the idea. One thing led to another and a year and a half later, we are open for business.” With a background in home remodeling, he personally transformed the former Cypress Steel space into minimalist new cafe.
Their name derives from the fact that Ethan, also a self-trained electrician, thinks “electricity is the coolest and the best.” He adds, “The theme is evident in our space in a few details. Plus, it’s kind of the theme of the neighborhood,” referring to the aforementioned Fusebox that’s located in this predominantly industrial area.
For now, Kilovolt brews up Sightglass (whom Ethan also received his barista training from), but they’re looking to feature other coffees. (Perhaps they’ll explore Scarlet City Coffee Roasting’s offerings or try their hand at roasting their own with raw green beans from Sweet Maria’s, which are also both located in West Oakland.)
Their edibles come from a variety of local purveyors. Dessert pastries are prepared By C., fresh bagels arrive daily from Baron Baking, and their pane de Altamura comes from Berkeley’s Metropolis Baking Company. “Soon we will have salads and juices from Natural Choice, a local distributor located 4 blocks away,” Ethan noted. “We’re still working to get a croissant/morning bun/muffin vendor. Also donuts, I want donuts!”
And be sure to check out their Geocities/Angelfire-inspired website that was designed by Ethan’s girlfriend. “Everyone knows the internet achieved perfection in 1998,” he says.