by Greg Foisie – staff writer and distributor, Change-Links
There are few businesses that exist to selflessly serve the needs of the community. One of those is the extraordinary UnUrban Coffee House, recently reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 Omicron pandemic and struggling to regain an economic footing during these difficult times for all of us. While stalwarts like the Talking Stick and Café 212 Pier have unfortunately departed, the UnUrban Coffee House has somehow miraculously survived.
The UnUrban is the product of the vision of its owner, Pamela Stollings, who began the restaurant on Labor Day weekend 1995. Coming from a ballet background and being blessed with an exceptional culinary talent, Pam has served up both artistic endeavors and delicious organic coffees, teas, juices, chili, bread, salads, sides, snacks, and desserts for a very long time. She is now restructuring her business after remarkable, extensive renovations, and initially offers a limited assortment of foods on weekends. Pam seeks community support to reestablish this unique community center.
This café’s open environment nurtures the creativity and self-expression of everyone who enters it. Over the years thousands of musicians, bands, comedians, and actors have performed at its open mics and concerts, thousands of people have attended AA meetings and other presentations every day, and hundreds of artists have displayed their art on its walls.
Empowering the rhetoric of free speech into reality, the UnUrban Coffee House has offered its performance and display spaces to any person or group wishing to use it for over a quarter century. Groups as diverse as Alcoholics Anonymous, 9-11 Truth, the Los Angeles Go Club and LA SkyWatch – along with bands including Mother Nature’s Army, Carol McArthur, Andy’s Livingroom and Steve Moos’ remarkable assembly of musicians – have taken advantage of this open-space.
Artists too numerous to mention have benefited from the UnUrban’s gallery. As just one example, with the passing of Change-Links’ long-time editor John Johnson, the UnUrban allowed displays of John’s journalism and extensive paintings to grace the interior of the coffee house for a three month period.
Not charging admission under most circumstances, the Urban Coffee House simply asks those participating at such events there to contribute with donations and the purchase food, drink, and artwork on display. It is because of this open spirit that the UnUrban continues to hold a unique and very special attraction to many people despite being locked down for over 2 years due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
This welcoming community environment has resulted in hundreds of loyal patrons flocking to the coffee house’s grand re-opening on January 15th , ’22 which coincided with a neighborhood block party and ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating the brand new Pico Improvement Organization’s new Pico Placement Mural. The new mural is directly across Urban Avenue on two walls of Interdental near Pico and 33rd across from Trader Joe’s. The huge mural is magnificent, and people now come to Urban Avenue at Pico Blvd. just to take pictures of themselves in front of it.
The building hosting the UnUrban Coffee House boasts its own block-long mural featuring the iconic UnUrban Coffee House logo. Artist Uriel Bautista who created the UnUrban’s mural noted the effect of the coffee house’s atmosphere on his art work in the 2019 Holiday Edition of Tis the Season:
The UnUrban Coffee House has one of the chillest vibes in Santa Monica, … the owners, staff and regulars are filled with positive energy. They do open mic nights, it’s cozy and funky. This place’s atmosphere rejuvenates my hope in good people. The mission was to have the exterior match the spirit of the inside. So, I used their existing logo as a focal point and rays of energy radiating from it. With organic ribbons and leaves in visually-pleasing colors, the wall was filled with expanding love. It was an unforgettable experience.
Pam has been a long time Pico Improvement Organization board member and a current vice chair that supported the Pico Placement Mural’s creation. Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich attended the block party, and the mayor’s presence drew the attendance of a few antivaxers who brought their own bullhorns and attempted to obnoxiously disrupt the celebration with their concerns about vaccine mandates, seeking to irritate the mayor. However they could not compete with the crowd’s distain for their bullying behavior, the wonderful music played by DJ Henry Helix, the dancing of Gina DeBaca’s Folklorico Dancers (through the Cabeza de Vaca Cultural Dance School at the Pico Youth & Family Center) and the delightful free food fare provided by the UnUrban Coffee House including the Pam’s tremendous turkey and vegetarian chilies, delicious breads, peach cobbler, coffee, and lemonade.
When more and more business locations in the greater Los Angeles have now become corporatized and shun community promotion and meaningful integration, the UnUrban and its owner/operator Pamela Stollings has not only welcomed but sought out such partnerships. Her open invitation to independent media, artists, musicians, comedians, speakers, organizers, gamers, and crafters has been ongoing for 27 years. The UnUrban’s open spaces serve as a gallery and miniature concert venue for untold numbers of concert and gallery openings throughout this entire period. Pam’s loving nature has welcomed many patrons other business owners may be reluctant to invite into their premises, such is her generosity of spirit.
The UnUrban Coffee House business-come-community center offers its unique hybrid business/community center model that serves as an idealistic goal for entrepreneurs everywhere, should our society wish to evolve into a fully joyful and creative enterprise.
At the outset, Pam hopes the UnUrban Coffee house will be open every weekend. Groups are encouraged to book the meeting space in order to schedule their events.
She would love to have different speakers there in the evening – like a learning annex with catalogue and schedule – teaching people about nutrition and self-healing with vitamins and good food. She hopes to get back into elevating community spirit – not just as a coffee shop but also continuing as an event space where people can come, express themselves, and enliven the community.
Pam ended our interview by remarking: “The UnUrban needs to have people come to support this initiative. It is starting over and is like building a new business. Come grow with us. We are based out of love. Come on down. We want you. We are rounding up activities and building a new community of people who are not afraid to get back to life.”
For evening bookings of the UnUrban’s space please contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (310) 315-0056. The UnUrban Coffee House is located at 3301 Pico Blvd. (at 33rd Street across from Trader Joe’s), Santa Monica, CA 90405. Its website is http://www.unurban.com