Hidden away within Calistoga’s Riverlea Square Shopping Center at the intersection of State Route 128 and Petrified Forest Road, Nikolas Gutierrez has opened a coffee shop he’s named Soul Rebel. Serving fresh-brewed organic fair-trade teas and coffees, a range of fruit smoothies, baked goods and soon to include pressed juices and breakfast sandwiches, the cozy little shop has been a dream in the making.
“I was a painter for the last 18 years here in Calistoga with my dad, Joe Gutierrez, but I felt like this is something that the community needed and also something that I could do for the next 18 years plus,” Gutierrez said. “My wife and I own half of this building (she owns and operates the adjacent 360 Salon and Day Spa), and when this space freed up we felt like it was great timing.”
Gutierrez said to prepare for making specialty coffee he attended classes and obtained a certificate through the Specialty Coffee Association.
“I learned everything from seed to cup at the SCA,” he said. “The training really trapped my interest. Once I completed it I knew I was pretty much on the exact right track, but it has been a journey.”
Part of that journey was to find a source of coffee beans that was in line with Gutierrez’s desire to utilize local businesses that were organic and that offered fair-trade coffee. He found that in a small company located in Eureka.
“When (Nik) first came into our store we talked coffee, life and family — our company fit so well with Soul Rebel because of our matching passions,” said Brandi Baldridge, business operations manager at Humboldt Bay Coffee Co. “(Like Soul Rebel) we are a family owned and operated company whose mission is to produced luxurious, fresh-roasted, organic coffee at a price that does not make you choose between milk or coffee.”
According to Baldridge, Humboldt Bay Coffee Co. sources only Olam coffee that provides beans “grown using environmentally conscious practices, is fair trade and promotes growth within the farmers’ communities.”
“We utilize trackability from roaster to farm and pride ourselves on producing a product that is handled with respect,” she said. “We are a small-batch coffee-roaster who roasts everything by hand, meaning there is no automation in our process. Everyone who works here, all 12 of us, enjoy what we do because we know we make a wonderful product and have fun doing it.”
Gutierrez chose to work with Baldridge and her team because they “were local” and “had amazing product and customer service.”
For now Soul Rebel offers coffee and light snacks, such as muffins and pastries.
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“I want to get everything perfect and then we’ll add more items,” he said.
Many locals say the coffee shop is a nice addition to the neighborhood.
“I’ve known Nik since he was a baby, and I am thrilled he’s opened his shop,” said Terri McNair, longtime resident of Calistoga. “The vanilla latte is perfect.”
McNair also likes to support local businesses because they “help maintain our tight-knit community,” and she feels that this is especially important after the fires in 2017.
“We’ve lost a lot of businesses since the fires,” she said. “So it’s nice to see some opening.”
A community of support
“I could not have done any of this without the support and help from my family and friends,” Gutierrez said. “From help building out the space to my wife and family being there for me — I have to give them all big ‘ups’ because without them this would not have happened.”
Gutierrez also said he’s hoping to “add to the community, not take away.”
“There are other coffeehouses in Calistoga, but I’m not trying to take anyone’s business away. We feel this is just perfect for people in our neighborhood (he lives right around the corner) and also for those commuters who just can’t get into town on their way to or from work.”
When asked why the shop is called Soul Rebel, Gutierrez laughed.
“It’s me,” he said. “I’m a peaceful warrior and do things my own way.”
The shop is opened Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.