Angie Evans (left) and Kat McIver (right). Photos by Asia Morris.
Kat McIver and Angie Evans, the owners and founders of Pop-Up Coffee Shop, also called Wide Eyes Open Palms, roll up on their bicycles for their interview. They speak to each other as they lock up their bikes and take off their helmets, talking softly, displaying a natural, subtly energetic connection that perhaps only two women who are partners in both life and in business can share.
Angie notices my loud hello first and the two join me at a table for breakfast at Berlin, sitting down as two people nervous to be questioned and excited to say the right words that will do justice to both their life-long passions of running a specialty coffee shop and cafe.
As Kat, a petite, freckled woman of incredible enthusiasm, settles into her seat, she exclaims, "You're the first person to interview us—so we're really kind of nervous-excited."
You know that inconspicuously inviting tent you probably saw during one of your trips to a farmers market in Long Beach? Maybe you passed it by on your way to the kettle corn or perhaps you actually took a minute to check out the pastry case or the neatly arranged apothecary-style bottles of cold brew, or maybe you were drawn into a conversation by the artful arrangement of glass jars, full of subtly colored teas? Perhaps you weren't quite sure what to make of the banner, hanging behind the two women selling their edible and drinkable offerings, that read "Pop-Up Coffee Shop"—a completely literal naming of the business.
Angie, who has a calm demeanor, who holds her power with a sense of laid back ease, explained how she and Kat began taking the steps to make their dreams come true.
"Kat and I, we're together, we're partners of course, please don't shhh that," Angie said. "We met here almost five years ago. Two years into our relationship we realized our passion. I always said I wanted to open up a cafe, focusing on specialty coffee and I can't cook and I always wanted food to be incorporated so I would always tell her this and then she's like, 'Well I want, you know, to have a restaurant,' but she maybe wasn't so much into the coffee like I am."
Kat chimed in, "I think that immediately when we met each other we bonded over the fact that we had both worked in service for so many years in a variety of different positions, from the front of the house to managing... I'd worked in coffee shops, juice bars, I'd worked at Mother's Market in the restaurant."
"I kind of ran Viento y Agua for about six years," Angie humbly noted, who, heralding from the bay area, moved to Long Beach to attend CSULB fourteen years ago. Angie worked at Viento y Agua for eight years and managed it for at least six of those.
Kat resumed the tale, "And then I think that, well, we both had always worked for other people. Both of our parents are entrepreneurs so we grew up in families who were running their own businesses and I think we both kind of had it in our heads that we would do that, too."
Kat's lattice top Peach Tartlet with Ricotta and Walnuts.
Kat and Angie both found a frustration working for other people, knowing that their ideas, the ones they held close to their heart and hoped to turn into careers, would never be made real by another person.
"We were getting frustrated," Kat said, "we were getting into our late twenties, we're both 32 now, and we just kept on working for other people and sometimes you feel like you're banging your head against a wall, like, 'Why won't you just take my good ideas?' and you're still getting paid nothing..."
"But you love it so much," Angie interjected, "I think we were always trying to push the space that we wanted onto the owners..."
"It just wasn't their dream. It was ours," Kat said.
"They just weren't as passionate and we're very specific. We're focused on local food and I'm very about specialty coffee, organic teas... things like that," Angie finished.
Kat and Angie had been dating for two years when they decided to start their first business together: a holistic cleaning and organizing venture where they made their own cleaning products, practiced spiritual cleansing, sage burning and sound therapy for their clients. The idea took off and they found themselves overwhelmed with the hard work that comes with success; however, that success had little to do with their long-term goal of opening a cafe.
"What was supposed to be a little side business, something we intended to do one or two days a week, became our lives," Kat said.
"After two-and-a-half years we were like, 'This isn't where we want to go," Angie continued. "It got so successful and then we got wrapped up working all the time. We were like wait a minute, we got away from where we wanted to go but, 'Okay, we can run a business together!'"
"You see some people with businesses together and you know that can break up relationships," Kat said about their initial hesitation, "but there are also these possibilities for collaboration, when people have such an intimate connection and can just... They can be the basis of some of the most successful businesses that exist."
After attending the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, a spiritual gathering the two use to recharge every year, Kat and Angie returned home with a fresh perspective.
"We went there last year feeling run down and a little bit lost," Kat said, "like 'What are we doing, and we came back and we were just like, 'We can do anything we want to, we don't have to feel this,' like being tied to this business. If we want to come home and recreate our lives than we can. Let's do it. Let's stop procrastinating. Let's just start making this food and coffee business—that is our passion a reality."
Both Angie and Kat had spoken to the farmers market managers, being regular attendees themselves, to discuss the possibility of opening a pop up coffee shop, yet kept getting turned down.
Dark chocolate sea salt cookie with espresso grind Kenya Kirimahiga from Augie's Coffee.
"As soon as we had the attitude of like, 'Yes, this is going to happen,' it happened," Kat said. "We got into the Bixby Park Tuesday market last November and now we're up to three markets every week. We're in that moment of just looking toward that next step, the next way to build it."
Kat moved from Los Angeles to Long Beach a year-and-a-half ago to move in with Angie and fully commit to the Pop-Up Coffee Shop. While Long Beach's culinary culture is simply not as varied as what Kat was used to in Los Angeles, she realized that Long Beach is sitting on a boiling pot of potential.
"I think one of the things that made me feel like it was hard to make a commitment to Long Beach was that the culinary culture I had existed within, in the eight years prior that I lived in LA, I just think that it didn't exist here," Kat explained. "I think that there is a lot of amazing food in Long Beach, but the kind of food I like to eat, the kind I like to cook and the culture I like to participate in... It didn't exist here.
"But now I feel like when I'm at a farmers market and I'm explaining to someone how you make laminated doughs, or I'm telling them how to make plum caramel and then they share something with me...Long Beach and the markets are unique opportunities to make direct intercultural connections and to build this culinary culture. We're taking these tiny steps to build it and we need to elevate. Long Beach has such a huge potential to be on the map."
That is exactly how Kat and Angie plan to contribute: by adding another unique element to the already eclectic variety of coffee and food being made in Long Beach.
Angie's love for brewing coffee is paired with her love for teaching and she wants to encourage anyone and everyone to learn about all the different flavors, origins and brewing techniques that are out there.
"We only do single origin for clarity of taste, so we can slowly teach people about origin," she said. "I can't wait to have a space where I can bring people to and have classes. Because I love coffee and I love teaching and I love making it simple because I know a lot of people will say, 'Oh, I went to this shop and they were very snooty.' Now we don't know if that person was actually giving them attitude, but there is some snootiness in coffee. I want people to feel comfortable, like 'Ask me that question that you think is stupid. Just ask me and I'll tell you as much as I can with my knowledge.' I want to teach brewing classes, have cuppings, and I want people to be able to do it at home, because the more they get into it, the more they'll support me and I can keep supporting them."
In the words of Kat, it's specialty coffee with an emphasis on taste, education and, of course, variety. Angie brings in specialty coffees like Four Barrel and Ritual, both roasters based in San Francisco, Kuma Coffee from Seattle and then a variety of more locally based beans.
“This week we have more of a local brand, it’s called Augie's from Riverside," Angie said. "Then we’ll use Rose Park from Long Beach. We try to bring in different coffees as much as possible so people can see that there’s a variety in coffee and roasters.”
Angie also cold brews a variety of teas, oolongs, whites, and tisanes, a beverage made using herbs and roots. Right now the most popular flavor is Angie’s Hibiscus Lavender Agave and she just recently made a delicious Ginger Mint, a brew that will certainly clear your sinuses and aid in digestion.
Kat’s side of the business is making the pastries. She creates savory foods, makes her own granola and puts an emphasis on freshly baked goods. The menu changes with every single pop-up shop they do, but for the past three weeks Kat has been collecting the end-of-summer zucchinis to perfect her vegan zucchini bread.
“I like using what’s freshest and what tastes best and what people’s bodies are best responding to. I have a constant brainstorm going," Kat said.
Wide Eyes Open Palms, the name they chose six months ago after much thought and debate, came to Kat when she was cleaning.
“I was sweeping and vacuuming and doing everything and we had been racking our brains for a year and a half trying to figure things out and I wanted something that gives people something to think about. ‘We-Op’ sounds like co-op to me and I like that because we're very much about an intentional community space and a political space.”
Angie said, “At first I thought it was too complicated, too long, and I think I was cleaning too when I thought, that's it, this is it. It is it. Because it just is, I mean there's so many interpretations of it, which I like, like 'Wide Eyes' you know, 'coffee'…”
“...awakening,” Kat inserted.
“Caffeinating,” Angie continued, “and also when we go to a new restaurant or a coffee place in Portland or New York, when you walk into a restaurant for the first time and you hear that music and you smell that smell and we know we're getting this intentional, really high quality food or drink. You're really just wide eyed and open palmed, like open to receiving.”
As far as the permanent space Wide Eyes Open Palms will eventually inhabit, both Angie and Kat have a clear picture of what “coffee shop” means to them. It’s all about accessibility, making that personal connection and creating a space where everyone feels welcome.
“This potential that coffee and food has to be a revelatory experience, to really feel something," Kat said. "It's not just about getting caffeinated, although I respect coffee for that functional aspect of it, but it's about that feeling when you taste something different and you enjoy it. You feel better about life, it taps you into that source and the meaning of joy...”
“...and you know where it comes from,” Angie mentioned.
“...and who hand brewed it in front of you. It creates this deeper connection,” said Kat.
Kat spoke passionately and conclusively when she noted that it's “not true that there's no one in Long Beach doing seasonal food but, I can't afford to go and eat at those restaurants on a regular basis. Taking handmade, fine dining, locally sourced, seasonal food with integrity and instead of serving it with white table cloths and instead of charging $30 a plate you charge $15 and you sit on the sidewalk and that's what I want to do. To give people access to beautiful taste experiences that are affordable for the everyday person. Because that's what I am, you know. I want to be able to have that, I want someone to make that for me.”
Wide Eyes Open Palms’ Pop-Up Coffee Shop can be visited on Tuesdays from 3 pm - 8 pm at the Bixby Park Farmers Market, Fridays 10am to 3pm at the downtown Long Beach market and Sundays from 9 am - 2 pm at the Southeast farmers market on Marina Drive. You can check out their Facebook here for updates and their website here for more information.