Berkeley community reflects on Sack’s Coffee House closure

Photo of Sack's Coffee
Allen Zeng/File
Sack’s Coffee House, an Elmwood cafe popular among college students and local community members for its welcoming atmosphere and staff, has permanently closed. The cafe was in business for approximately 11 years.

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Sack’s Coffee House, a popular Elmwood neighborhood cafe, permanently closed its doors after about 11 years in business.

Noted for its cozy, inviting atmosphere and welcoming staff, Sack’s served as a go-to study spot and productive workplace for many students and community members. Tiffany Trat, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, said she would go out of her way to study at Sack’s and considered it to be a student-friendly cafe.

“It was so integrated with both college students and locals,” Trat said. “You didn’t get that at coffee shops closer to campus.”

Trat added that with its long hours and accommodating staff, Sack’s made her feel comfortable to “camp out” to study there without worrying about occupying space for long periods of time, and she always felt welcomed by the staff.

Other UC Berkeley students and recent alumni expressed similar sentiments on an Overheard at UC Berkeley Facebook page post. With more than 700 engagements as of press time, many people were saddened and alarmed over the cafe’s closure, in addition to worrying about what other popular coffee shops might be closing next.

“Sack’s is one of those places that you think will always be there. You never consider that one day it wouldn’t be,” said Stephanie Ke, a member of the Berkeley Playhouse community and a Sack’s regular of nine years.

With Sack’s located across the street from the Berkeley Playhouse, community members grew to rely on the cafe for quick bites and lunches during rehearsals and intermissions, according to Ke.

Aubri Kahalekulu, Ke’s daughter, added that Sack’s was the “overwhelming constant” where she and her fellow theater friends would spend time together during her many years with Berkeley Playhouse.

Ke also warmly remembers her time spent at the cafe, noting the many hours she spent doing work there while Kahalekulu rehearsed for upcoming shows.

“You always felt very comfortable being there,” Ke said. “No judgement, no attitudes, no trouble — just people enjoying themselves in a comfortable coffee shop.”

Dean Wallace, district director for California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, said he will always associate Sack’s with fond memories from early days of campaigning.

During the initial stages of Wicks’s first run for California State Assembly and before the campaign had a physical office space, Wallace said Sack’s was one of the campaign’s central meeting spots to do work and meet with volunteers. Wallace added that he will miss the cafe’s bustling, productive atmosphere.

“Like many, my biggest fear is that once we are finally able to get out of the worst of this pandemic, we will be returning to communities that are unrecognizable,” Wallace said. “Our local cafes, independent restaurants and small merchants are so important in establishing and maintaining a sense of community.”

Contact Katia Pokotylo at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katiapokotylo_.