July 31, 2006
Even Alleys Getting Chic

Midtown Sacramento doesn't have enough streets to accommodate all the new businesses springing up in the area, not even just the food businesses. Now they're starting to move into the alleys, which may be just what it will take to get those grim shortcuts spruced up and vibrant.

Jason Griest and Tim Jordan have taken over a brick-and-timber industrial space in the alley between 17th and 18th streets, Capitol Avenue and L Street, and have transformed it into Old Soul Co. to bake artisan breads and roast coffees.

It's a wholesale business only, with no retail sales, though people working and living in the area are dropping by in the mornings for a cup of coffee and maybe a scone. The old warehouse has cushiony sofas, abstract paintings and a coffee-brewing island in the middle of the space, but without parking, a bathroom, other seating and regulatory permits it isn't set up to deal directly with the public.

Jordan and Griest, however, are scouting the neighborhood for retail space. In the meantime, they crank up their coffee roaster in one corner, bake breads, muffins and scones at ovens in another, and on Monday mornings invite prospective retail customers to gather around a big farm table for a coffee cupping, an exercise aimed at coming up with appealing roasts and blends.

Jordan, a Sacramento native, was a printer for more than 20 years before realizing that baking is his passion. He's learning as he goes, though he's being tutored by one of the more highly regarded bakers in the area, Casey Hayden. (Yep, Hayden's back in town after signing on with Habitat for Humanity to help build houses in Armenia and Poland. After a year away from the local culinary scene he's getting ready for a comeback. He's consulting to the Leland Stanford Mansion Foundation, and any day now could be named the mansion's event director, overseeing soirees at the facility for the governor and legislators.)

Griest is from Pittsburgh, Penn., but he's been a presence on the local coffee-house scene for years, most notably as a former partner of Naked Lounge at 15th and Q streets. He tends the roaster and coordinates the coffee cuppings.

The business is a little more than a month old, but their coffees are being served and sold at Taylors Market and are being poured by nearby restaurants Mulvaney's Building & Loan and 58 Degrees and Holding Co. and at the coffee houses Coffee Garden, Java Lounge and Temple. Their breads just are starting to enter the market, with Tortugas picking up their rolls for the Mexican sandwiches called tortas.

Griest came up with the name Old Soul to evoke a sense of the Old World craftsmanship they want their artisan products to represent.

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