Handsome Coffee Roasters Strip Away Specialty Coffee Conventions in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District
Most new specialty coffee companies are interested in adding wrinkles to the coffeebar experience, but Handsome Coffee Roasters co-founders Chris Owens, Michael Phillips and Tyler Wells are more interested in stripping away conventions at their new Arts District café and roastery.
For design and construction, the Intelligentsia veterans brought in WoodSmithe, a nearby firm that also worked on Wurstkuche. Phillips said, “Handsome is a company designed around sort of unpretentious quality.” Given that, they opted for “working class materials” like copper, iron, glass, subway tiles, and concrete flooring, with tables and chairs crafted from white oak and a “granite” bar top. “It’s all very functional,” said Phillips. “It’s all meant for the purpose we’re using it for, but it’s also clean and beautiful.” Sight-lines run from the street, through the glass fronted bar, into the glass-fronted coffee roastery, and beyond to the back room. However, it’s not all so straightforward. The packaging and aged maple walls in the hallway sport flair in the form of “Handsome items,” some of which have deeper meaning, like a bowtie, which references Tyler Wells’ attire, and boxing gloves, which correspond to Handsome’s seasonal Fisticuffs espresso blend.
Handsome has no wall outlets or internet, which might make some coffee visitors squirm, but as Owens said, they want Handsome to be “the center for the community to come together, and not being the center for the community to come and isolate themselves in a public space.”
To optimize bar flow, which Phillips described as “the beating heart of a functioning coffee bar,” the trio relied on past experience and built on a successful model, Seattle’s Espresso Vivace. At Handsome, people enter, the barista takes your order, and they lead you to a register for payment and/or pastries. However, unlike Vivace, Handsome also has brewed coffee, but made sure to keep it “very simple, very clean,” with no overhead menus. Instead, the menu’s painted near the entrance.