Mr. Espresso, an Oakland-based, family-run company that has been roasting and distributing Italian-style oak wood roasted coffee to Bay Area retailers, cafes and restaurants for nearly 45 years, announced the anticipated opening of its first cafe, The Caffè by Mr. Espresso, this May in downtown Oakland.
Mr. Espresso’s branded cafe and retail shop will be on the ground floor of the new 18-story office tower, dubbed “The Key at 12th,” so named because the development incorporates the historic Key Systems Building, a national landmark, into the design. The 1,200-square-foot cafe will face Broadway and is just steps away from 12th Street BART station. The development is a joint venture between Ellis Partners, a Northern California real estate investor and developer, and Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation. The Caffè by Mr. Espresso is expected to be the first retail project to open at The Key at 12th.
The Key Systems Building dates back to 1911 and became the headquarters for the Key System Railway, which transported East Bay residents locally and across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, in 1943. The building was shuttered following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. As part of the comprehensive renovation project, the historic portion was integrated into the office tower.
Both The Caffè by Mr. Espresso and The Key at 12th have successfully integrated history and modernity into their identities. When Carlo Di Ruocco founded Mr. Espresso in 1978 with his wife Marie Francoise, he leaned into his mechanical and electrical background and his strong Italian heritage to bring Italian coffee culture to the Bay Area, selling espresso machines and producing distinctive coffee using traditional wood roasting techniques. The Caffè will stay true to Mr. Espresso’s Italian origins and strong California roots while catering to the preferences of the modern-day coffee drinker. Carlo’s sons, Luigi and John Di Ruocco, and daughter, Laurence “Laura” Zambrano, are heading the new project, continuing in their parents' footsteps.
“Like the Key, we are part of Oakland’s rich history,” says Luigi Di Ruocco, the second-generation co-owner of Mr. Espresso. "We can't wait to introduce our coffee to those who might not know that Mr. Espresso has been an Oakland-based roaster for nearly 45 years and to welcome our long-time fans into our first brick-and-mortar space. We are honored to be a part of the rejuvenation efforts that are transforming downtown Oakland and excited to bring our modern take on the Italian caffè experience to the heart of City Center as workers and residents return to their routines.”
Plans for The Caffè began in early 2020 but the opening was postponed for more than a year as a result of the pandemic.
Will Miller, Partner and Director of Asset Management for Ellis Partners adds, “Like Ellis Partners, the Di Ruoccos have a deep and longstanding commitment to Oakland. We are thrilled that The Caffè will provide a fantastic amenity to our tenants as they return to the 340,000 square feet of office space above The Caffè.”