As I walked up to the gorgeous heritage facade of The Penny Coffee on Mission’s historic 1st Ave, I was immediately struck by the carefully renovated exterior, which stands out bold and blue on a street lined with brick red and brown. Without even setting foot inside the space, I could tell the interior was going to be beautiful- and I was not disappointed.
I stepped into a bustling café, full of locals and Instagram-hunters sipping beverages, tapping away on laptops, and chatting with friends. After ordering myself a flat white, I settled into a bright window nook to people-watch and chat with Greg Elford, the owner.
As it turns out, the Penny has a story far beyond espresso and avocado toast.
Greg, who operates as the owner of the business, is in fact the director of a trust. The Celebrate Foundation owns the building that houses The Penny, which is also home to another storefront, a community hall called Copper Hall, and upstairs apartments. The community hall downstairs is solely focused on offering resources and support to those in need- and this industrial-chic coffee house on the main floor is donating 100% of its profits to continue that work.
Yes, you read that correctly- The Penny puts 100% of its net profits back into the community.
In speaking with Greg, it’s clear that his heart (and his wife, Erin’s) lies in helping the disenfranchised. He speaks animatedly about the Poverty Alleviation Conference they just hosted in the Copper Hall Downstairs, the community soup kitchen that runs there, and the various local organizations and initiatives that they are helping through this venture, including a low-income school and a youth group for young people not affiliated with a church.
Greg and Erin teamed up with their friends to bring the dream of The Penny to life. Café supervisor and graphic designer Bitty Berlinghoff designed their gorgeous branding, Erin designed and decorated the stunning interior, and all of them have poured blood sweat and tears into the 3-year journey to opening these doors.
The Penny philosophy is simple: Small contributions add up- one penny on its own may not count for much, but when they begin to accumulate, they can make a huge impact.
The Penny may have just opened a week ago, but Greg says the response has been overwhelming. Long lines are a regular occurrence already, prompting them to hire more staff even at this early stage. I’m not surprised by this- even my coffee snob self was wowed by their espresso.
That’s a community connection too- the coffee they serve here is locally roasted by Smoking Gun Coffee Roasters, who they’ve just brought on as a permanent addition to the Penny team.
They have big plans to expand the community reach of this space, including offering a place for business owners in the Mission area to come and network after hours and offering even more community programming down below.
It’s worth a trip to 33128 1st Ave in Mission to check out this new social enterprise, try their delicious coffee, and take in the beautiful surroundings- and while you’re at it, why not inquire about the initiatives downstairs and see if you can lend a hand? You might find a way to cast your own penny into the bucket and help make a difference.
You can find The Penny on Instagam @thepennycoffee, on Facebook at facebook.com/thepennycoffee, or on their website www.thepennycoffee.com.