August 4, 2020 – If you have lived in Santa Cruz for any significant amount of time, you likely took a moment to absorb the news, announced back in June, that Kelly’s French Bakery was shutting down its landmark cafe on the Westside. After more than 40 years in business, Kelly Porter Sanchez and her husband Mark decided to close down that part of their operation, maintaining the wholesale baking brand, but leaving behind the days of restaurant ownership. The couple bought the building in 2003 and steadily built up the entire Swift Street Courtyard, spearheading what has become a culinary and wine destination for the Santa Cruz community.
Many of us were worried the space would remain empty, but locally-loved coffee shop and roastery 11th Hour Coffee is taking over the spot as its second location and we couldn’t be happier.
11th Hour owners Brayden and Joel Estby posted to social media, “We couldn’t feel more grateful to have this opportunity. We are gonna be bringing the history with us as we takeover and make it 11th Hour.
Kelly and Mark who started Kelly’s French Bakery have worked so hard and made the Westside what it is today. They played such a fundamental role in building the community on this side of town. They had to take a huge leap of faith with buying this building and we plan to do the same.”
The handover was actually first broached more than a year ago, when Kelly’s switched to using 11th Hour coffee as their roaster. A partnership was formed and some conversations took place about the possibility of stepping away from the retail side of things, but at the time Joel and Brayden were not ready to pursue the idea.
But then the pandemic hit and the brothers used the downtime to finish up some pending infrastructure and systems projects at their downtown shop on Center Street. When Kelly and Mark reached out to Joel with an official query, they decided to go for it.
“Without the pandemic [break], we probably wouldn’t have been in the position to expand…so I guess it’s something good that came out of it!” says Brayden.
At a time when so many business owners are throwing in the towel, it is hopeful to see some “young and hungry” business people ready to take over the reins, especially in the case of these historic places.
And the brothers are ready. In fact, starting Wednesday they will be serving from a coffee cart in the front courtyard space as they begin the work of transforming the inside cafe. On the first day, coffee drinks will be free!
Brayden says that they plan to change the design of everything, completely remodeling it with roll up garage doors and an airy feel to the space that coalesces the inside and out. They plan to stick to some of the 11th Hour signature design elements, like river stone and redwood tables to create a “very immersive” space that showcases creativity.
“We really want to bring together a lot of artists for this build out, so we hope for that,” explains Brayden. This is the first shop that is all theirs, with a budget, so they really plan to make it feel unique and expressive of their vision.
Buildout is expected to take about six months, but in the meantime, they will be open for service out on the courtyard from their espresso cart, as well as at the farmers’ market and their downtown location. The food menu will include the same popular items they are known for, like their series of toast specialties including the “Original Avocado Toast” with watermelon radish, and pickled onion, as well as an extended list of options, all made in a new kitchen space they are building. Kelly’s Bakery will continue to use the large kitchen on site for its wholesale business.
For Joel and Brayden—who boot-strapped their way up from slinging coffee at the farmers’ market to creating a thriving business in a tough location on Center Street—this big news marks an impressive evolution. They will be joining the ranks of craft coffee shop culture on the Westside, that includes Verve, Cat & Cloud and Café Iveta just a stone’s throw away.
“We’re not worried at all, I think that just having more of a hub down there will be good for everybody,” says Brayden. “We’re hoping it just adds to the culture of the whole community on the Westside. We love the coffee community and just want to contribute to it, and bring a fresh flavor of what a coffee experience can be.”