Meet the Team Behind Slojoy Coffee Roasters in Oakland

|February 8, 2019

Christopher Stites and his wife are the faces behind Oakland’s Slojoy Coffee Roasters. Nestled on Webster Street in downtown Oakland, you may have passed their walk-up window, you may have heard about their handwritten notes, and you may have tasted their amazing coffee. But there is so much more to Slojoy—and it starts with their mission to spread joy.

“We didn’t start Slojoy to make money. We didn’t even start it to provide a full income for our family,” Christopher said. “It’s been about making an impact in the community that we’re planted in: in Oakland. This is where me, my wife, my kids live, so we wanted to give back.”

He went on to say, “We started Slojoy to encourage people to spread joy. That’s why we exist.”

And over the course of just about three years, they’ve been able to do exactly that.

In The Beginning

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

In 2014, Christopher and his wife took a trip to Hawaii. There, they visited a coffee farm, fell in love with coffee, came back and started home roasting in their Martinez apartment. But what started as a fun gift for family and friends quickly grew into something more. Christopher explained, “When I built a website and starting selling to family and friends, it took off.”

From there, they started bringing Slojoy to events—weddings and art galleries—where they served pour over and gave out cups of coffee adorned with handwritten notes.

Before they could nail down a coffee shop space, they need a little help. “We did a Kickstarter, raised $8,000 in 30 days, and bought our espresso machines,” Christopher said.

And that’s when they found a temporary home in Rocky’s Market in Montclair. “That was our first real shop,” Christopher said. “We were there for about six months and that’s where we had our first public-facing thing.”

Now, at the beginning of 2019, they’re roasting in a much bigger facility than their Martinez apartment: Bay Area CoRo in Berkeley. And they’ve been serving out of their walk-up window—a converted janitor’s closet on the ground floor of a coworking space—for almost a year.

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

“We’re right in the middle of it,” Christopher said. “And we’re part of a coworking building, so we get a lot of regulars. These people go to work every single day in the same spot, so they’re coming through at the same times ordering the same drink. And after being here for ten months, we have an abnormal amount of regulars. That’s really cool.”

The Slojoy Mission

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

And while the coffee and the location are excellent, we think there’s a lot more to this little coffee shop than just that, and several great reasons passing customers become Slojoy regulars.

The first reason comes in the form of a handwritten note. On every cup of coffee you order from the window, you get a handwritten reminder that you matter, that you’re loved—a personal note meant to make you smile, inspire you and give you hope. “We want to give back in a way where people can leave, not just with a good cup of coffee, but also with some hope, some encouragement, a reason to smile,” Christopher said. “And it’s caught on. We see people coming now just for the notes on the cups. They’re dying to see what the note says; they have them on their shelves at work; people have conversations at our shop around their notes.”

And because the Slojoy team officially consists of just two people, there’s a good chance that note was handwritten by Christopher himself.

“Usually, 90% of the notes are off the top of my head,” he explained. “I don’t want any cup to go out without a note—even if there’s a rush and all my notes are gone. I’ll write a quick ‘you matter’ or ‘you’re loved.’ Now, people come and, if they don’t have a note, they’ll turn around and say ‘Hey, can I have a cup with a note?’ It’s awesome.”

He went on to say, “Yeah, it takes a lot of time throughout the day, but it’s worth doing. And it keeps me grounded in the mission, in why we started.”

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

The second reason comes in the form of an opportunity. Slojoy’s Cup of Joy option on their menu lets people just like you give back to the community, too. Christopher explained, “It’s a pay it forward option. People can say, ‘I want to put five dollars down for a drink’ and they pay for other people’s coffees.” Through the Cup of Joy, you’re giving someone else a free coffee and a smile of their own.

Why Joy?  

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

“A big part of our story is that I’m also a pastor and a church planter,” said Christopher. “That’s one of the reasons we started. We moved to Oakland from Martinez; we wanted to serve the community and get to know Oakland. What better way to do that than to have a coffee shop where we can get to know the folks in Oakland, give back to the community and spread joy? That’s where the heart of Slojoy came from.”

And the heart of Slojoy—Christopher’s experiences with pastor work and church planting—is still going strong.

“Our church is called The Movement Church. We’re just one church now and our goal within the next eight years is to start seven more churches in public schools,” said Christopher. “And we give back to the school we’re in. We give money to the principal every month, we feed the teachers every month, we give free uniforms to the students. Our goal is to plant more churches in more schools so we can serve them.”

And that work directly relates to Slojoy’s day to day operations and its overarching, joyful mission.

Christopher explained, “It’s really important for us, when people ask about the free cups or the notes, to give the reason. I’m a Christian. We’re not thumping people over the head with Bibles, but I do want people to see that we have a joy and a mission that is different than the rest of the world. When everything seems dark or depressing, we want to be a light—not because we’re good but because we have a hope in us. We want people to feel that: there’s something more to life than just what they’re doing on a day to day basis. They were made for more.”

“It might sound silly to have that come through a coffee shop, but for us, coffee is not about the coffee; it’s about the people,” he said. “I’m here almost every single day and I build great relationships with the folks that come through. I know their family; they know mine. We can have honest and deep discussions. This is more than just a shallow exchange of money and services.”

The Future of Slojoy

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Photo courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

While The Movement Church grows in Oakland, Slojoy Coffee Roasters will, too.

In early 2019, Christopher revealed new branding for the coffee company. He explained, “I knew I wanted something that would show off our mission without even having to say it. Especially in the Bay Area where coffee is so big, people try so hard to be hipster and cool with coffee. And that’s fine, but we’re not trying to do that. We’re trying to be fun and not take ourselves so seriously.”

And their new branding is made to show that off, complete with bright colors, bubbly and fun designs, and plenty of peace signs and thumbs up. “It’s not corporate or clean,” Christopher said. “It’s who we are. It exudes the joy and the fun we feel about life.”

Slojoy Coffee Roasters Oakland California

Image courtesy of Slojoy Coffee Roasters

The new branding is something that will stick with Slojoy as they expand into more locations. While Christopher was able to tell us there’s a second location on the queue in Oakland, he wasn’t able to tell us where. So, if you want to be the first in line, be sure you’re following Slojoy Coffee Roasters on Facebook.

You can also find them (and see a few cheerful notes) on Instagram and Twitter.

And you can locate their first shop at 1528 Webster St just outside the coworking building 1528 Webster in downtown Oakland. Come on up to the window and order your Cup of Joy.

Looking for more coffee?

You can learn more about local coffee roasters and shops in our other articles: The 13 Best Local Coffee Shops in Oakland and The Bay Area’s 13 Best Artisan Coffee Roasters.

If you snap a selfie while you’re sipping your local coffee, be sure to tag #DiscoverYourView for a chance to be featured in our Instagram feed! You can find us at @mcguire_re.

Category Community Guides, East Bay

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