New 12th Ave Cherry Street Coffee owner says biz is hot (and woonerf ain’t even done yet)

Ghambari's sexy face (Images: CHS)

Ghambari’s sexy face (Images: CHS)

“I designed this place sexy, like my face,” Ali Ghambari says to one of the first questions I ask him.

On July 5th, Ghambari opened up his eighth Cherry Street Coffee House, nestled on 12th Ave and James Ct in the Douglas Building. And boy is he stoked about it.

“Business has been kick-ass, if I’m just telling it like it is,” Ghambari says with a giant grin. But it isn’t just about the business for Ghambari. “If you are just going somewhere to make a dollar, I’m done with that shit. Whatever. I want to focus on bringing a little bit of love and positive energy to the community. That’s Cherry Street Coffee House’s focus. I’m good at that shit—bringing the love into the community.”

Objectively, his mantra seems to be working. For a new coffee house in an already saturated market, the coffee house has been visibly hopping since it opened. The straightforward combination of breakfast and lunch sandwich options, pastries, and a house blend of Dillano’s coffee roast seem to be drawing people into the Douglas—a building that has seemed a bit spectral with its lack of tenants this past year.

The menu features breakfasty bagel dishes that run on average around $3 to $4, mediterranean lunch sandwiches and salads around $7, and all your standard cafe beverages.

The interior is a mix of modern style with rough wood accents—as a coy nod to Cap Hill culture, part of a telephone pole stands in the middle of the cafe, covered in posters. A conference room with a sliding barn door and a large conference table lies in one corner of the shop, outdoor open air patio seating on the other.

Ghambari is particularly excited for the future of Cherry Street Coffee House in this location in particular. Come January, James Court Woonerf park is slated to open next door. The 7,332 square-foot park is designed so that pedestrians and cyclists will have priority over motorists.

“That means people are going to have to slow down when they come by here, which is great,” Ghambari says. “It’s going to build that community and make this a great place to be.”

Cherry Street’s outdoor seating.


Sundried Tomato Feta spread on a bagel.

Cherry Street interior

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22 thoughts on “New 12th Ave Cherry Street Coffee owner says biz is hot (and woonerf ain’t even done yet)

  1. I ride my bike by it every day on my way to work. Tried to stop there to check it out last week, but there was nothing to lock my bike to nearby.

  2. Awesome Job! We need more “Capitol Hill Culture” here in the CD. It’s not like we have any culture of our own. We do need more business owners, like this one, that will embrace what we who live in this neighborhood bring to the table. Can’t wait to stop in!

  3. I’ve been there a couple of times now and enjoyed my americanos – ran into the owner the last time and he was genuinely cheerful and enthusiastic, at 7AM to boot!

    I’ve folded it into my regular coffee rotation, though it’s tough to compare their pastries (which I think are from Essential Bakery) to Ba Bar’s pastry menu (Karen is amazing!)

  4. For a year I used to work downtown around the corner from the first Cherry St Coffee 10 or 15 years ago. I was one of multitudes who would line up for their morning fix. Ali was always friendly and genuinely welcoming to everyone who entered. I was shocked a few years ago finding myself there once again, that Ali came out from behind the counter with a hearty handshake and took the time to sincerely find out what I had been up to and where my life had taken me. Like a long lost friend, I wish more places treated customers that way.

  5. For the record, Ali’s “love” doesn’t extend to his own employees. Barristas are paid minimum wage with no raises, ever, and no benefits at all – no insurance, no time off, nothing. Far as I’m concerned the man’s a predator and his talk of community is a sham.

  6. Ali has always met his people half way. It’s a two-way street and you get what you put into it like any job. I worked for Cherry St years ago while in college. The turn over is very low compared to other coffee houses in the industry. There are baristas there going on 5 and 10 years!

  7. You’re totally right… I heard they are working on getting a bike rack very soon. Ali and many of his crew cycle, so it’s on the radar!

  8. How, exactly, does he “meet his employees halfway”? He literally never gives barristas raises. He does less for his employees than any McDonald’s, and far less than corporate coffee shops like Starbucks or Tully’s. And from what I’ve seen, turnover at his stores approaches 90-100% in a year.

    Like Chris Rock once said, “You know what minimum wage means? It means if they could pay you less, they would.”

  9. This guy is in the news a lot, lately, for adding a 1.5% “sick leave surcharge” to his coffee prices because of the new City law saying employees get 2 weeks of sick leave per year.

    This sick leave policy applies to *every coffee place in the city*, so prices are going up a bit all over. To whine about having to give food service employees time off when they are sick definitely seems to fit in with the reputation Ghambari has (as evidenced by former employees in the Reddit thread, in this CHS thread (minus Liz!) and on my FB page.)

    He has the right to express his idiot political opinions, and I have the right to not buy coffee there. Best of luck with your Tea Party outreach campaign, Ali.