It’s hidden, tucked away on the border of Hawthorne and Manhattan Beach in an inconspicuous area just off the 405 Freeway.
The new Urth Caffe—set to open Oct. 27 as the ninth location for the family owned and operated brand—holds true to the business model that has made Urth a household name in Los Angeles and beyond: offering heirloom, organic coffee alongside farm-to-table eats.
But, according to Shallom Berkman who co-founded the company with his wife Jilla, the new spot offers a little something extra.
“It’s the only branch where people can come to the cafe and look in at the coffee roasting in process,” Berkman explained of the 1.5-acre site nestled in an industrial area off West 147th Street. “It’s everything. It’s very special. This is our food preparation, bakery and coffee-roasting.”
In addition to a cafe with beer and wine offerings, a large outdoor seating area, garden and plenty of parking, the new Urth Caffe location is also home to a huge warehouse center where guests can see Urth’s famous coffee and goods being prepared firsthand.
It also represents a homecoming for this much-lauded South Bay brand which got its start in Manhattan Beach nearly three decades ago.
“The first branch, Manhattan Beach, 1991...was on 34th and Highland. It was a little coffee bar with five stools...it had an ocean view so the guests could come stare out at the ocean,” Berkman reminisced, noting the company did not offer food at that time.
The business, which Berkman said opened earlier than Starbucks each morning, gained a considerable local following. Soon, customers were lined up around the block to enjoy the fresh-roasted coffee.
But, the success and subsequent foot traffic came to the chagrin of the Berkmans’ landlord who lived behind the shop.
“We got evicted, it was a very painful experience,” Berkman said, adding the cafe closed its doors in 1995. “The landlord had had enough of it. He was like ‘I want to have a successful business, but I didn’t expect it to be this successful.”
The closure of the Manhattan Beach location felt like a severing of roots to the couple, who now have two daughters.
“We had envisioned our grandchildren seeing this as the start,” Berkman lamented. “Also because of that, we started purchasing all of our properties.”
And purchase they did.
Urth Caffe began expanding business, landing another spot on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood In 1994.
With the opening of that location, Berkman explained, his wife—who had attended culinary school—said they include a food menu.
Many customers, he added, would come in expecting lunch offerings due to “Caffe”—which means coffee in Italian—being a part of the business name.
Urth, he added, is the old Welsh spelling for planet Earth, which symbolizes the brand’s mainstay concept of being organic.
“So when Melrose opened, we launched not just pastries but salads and sandwiches with the same philosophy of using organic and sustainable ingredients” Berkman said. “And that side of the business really took off. It became an important part of what Urth Caffe is.”
The company eventually expanded to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Downtown L.A., Pasadena, Laguna Beach, Orange, LAX and even Las Vegas at the Wynn Hotel.
And now, once again, the South Bay.
“It’s come full circle. It feels great to be coming back,” Berkman said, calling the location ‘the hub of everything.’ “Many people have been asking us to return to the South Bay and so it’s wonderful to be back here.”