Posted in projects on March 1, 2017 2:03 pm EST

Coffeehouse Vibe: Value Restoration

From the Church Designer archives, storytelling lies at the heart of a California coffehouse designed with a cause.

Restoration Roasters, Corona, Calif. Images courtesy of PlainJoe Studios.











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TAGS: adaptive reuse, architecture, business, community connection, design, sustainability,


By Carolyn Heinze

We all have “a-ha!” moments when it becomes clear how we’re going to overcome what sometimes seem like impossible challenges. For Blake Ryan, everything became clear during a visit to a coffee roasting facility.

"There's a quality and beauty that you find in the shop that you can find in these people. There's a roughness to the look; there's a roughness to the people that we're working with. We want that story to ring true...."

—Blake Ryan, Principle, PlainJoe Studios, Corona, CA

As volunteer director of the Corona Norco Rescue Mission in Corona, Calif., Ryan’s challenge was to help the homeless in a meaningful way. As principal at PlainJoe Studios, a design firm also based in Corona, his aim was to build a facility that would serve as the vehicle through which the program’s homeless––“students” in the rescue mission’s language––would gain the tools to rediscover their value, and reintegrate into society.

At Rabih Sater’s specialty coffeehouse, Dripp, in Chino Hills, Calif., Ryan’s “a-ha!” moment produced a number of connections: Coffee must go through a transformation––a restoration––before we consume it, much like people must transform and restore themselves in order to recover from trauma and construct healthy, fulfilling lives. Coffee in general––and specialty coffee in particular––is a hot commodity in the U.S., requiring skilled baristas to process and serve it the way it was intended to be consumed. One of the most meaningful ways to help the homeless is to provide vocational training that actually positions them for employment. And hey, if they’re trained as baristas, rather than just glorified coffee-pourers, there’s a chance they’ll be positioned to earn a bit more than the average server in a diner. And thus, Restoration Roasters was born.

Housed in the old nursery on the Crossroads Christian Church campus in Corona, Restoration Roasters is a specialty coffeehouse that enables students in the Corona Norco Rescue Mission’s program to acquire training not only as baristas and customer service reps, but also in business operations. One hundred percent of the café’s net proceeds are funneled back into the rescue mission. The design for this adaptive re-use project was a collaboration between PlainJoe and Visioneering Studios, the latter based in Irvine, Calif.

PlainJoe’s work spans strategic ideation (branding), interactive media (the expression of that branding, be it through websites, graphics, logos, or multimedia), and environmental design. Ryan explains that storytelling is at the core at the firm’s design philosophy; for Restoration Roasters, the story that’s being told is one of restoration.

“When we think of something that’s been restored, we feel like it’s lost value––that thing was new, became old, and lost value, and somebody’s bringing value back to it. The reality is the value was always there, it just needed to be brought back out,” Ryan says. “At Restoration Roasters, these people are valued. They have value, they’re incredible people––it’s not like they lost their value along the way; they just needed somebody to come alongside them and bring it back out.” To express this in the facility’s design, PlainJoe and Visioneering selected reclaimed materials such as wood, brick, galvanized pipe, and other metals, for the walls, floors, and ceilings.

“There’s a quality and beauty that you find in the shop that you can find in these people. There’s a roughness to the look; there’s a roughness to the people that we’re working with. We want that story to ring true, not only in how we express it in words, but also in how you find yourself being immersed in it.”  continued >>