Inklings: Turn of 20th century coffee house opens downtown

Valley Community Church pastor leads opening celebration with prayer

Inklings, a name associated with a literary discussion group from the University of Oxford in the 1930s, has opened its coffee and tea shop in downtown Pleasanton in a vacant building at 530 Main St. once occupied by Round Table Pizza.

The new business is affiliated with Valley Community Church, which has long operated a coffee and tea service in the lobby of its church at 4455 Del Valle Pkwy. However, the Main Street business is operating as a separate corporation from the church, with a separate board of directors and management team. Valley Community Church is a shareholder of the holding company.

Even so, the church's influence was apparent at grand-opening ceremonies last week when Heath Hardesty, the lead pastor at Valley Community Church, led the celebration with a prayer, joined by Inklings president Mark Lortz. Then evryone went inside, where coffee aficionados like found a custom-built coffee bar, hand-selected antique furniture and decor and wainscot paneling reminiscent of coffee houses at the turn of the 20th century.

Some might say that the last thing Pleasanton needs is another coffee shop, but this one is different. Every detail, from the gold tin ceiling to the built-in bookcases to the attached event center with meeting space for more than 100 have been carefully selected and crafted to stand out from other coffee houses.

Books from eras past and present line the walls and can be thumbed through or borrowed. There is even rumor that a secret passage waits to intrigue guests both young and old. Every aspect of the shop has been carefully thought through to create a unique place of wonder and excellence where residents of the Tri-Valley can gather together.

Inklings will occupy and use both floors of the building, which at one time when it was a pizza parlor was a destination for soccer and other youth sports clubs' end-of-season meals and award ceremonies. The new floor plan will accommodate small wedding ceremonies and receptions, movie nights and other similar types of events.

The first floor has been renovated with a coffee bar and table seating, an assembly area with a portable stage, a green room that performers and lecturers can occupy when not using the stage, two small meeting rooms, a small kitchen and restrooms. The assembly area will host a variety of special events, which will primarily be held from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Small church gatherings also will use the building, primarily on Sundays.

Inklings also features a 1,500-square-foot event center, which will host a number of events designed to bring people together in varied ways, such as concerts, art shows and open-mic nights. The event space will also be available for rent, with special pricing for local nonprofit organizations and Tri-Valley residents.

Inklings will be serving Portland-based Stumptown coffee. Espresso drinks will be served, along with its Nitro and cold brew coffee on tap. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee carefully brewed by hand right in front of you with Stumptown's single origin pour-overs. In addition, there's Compassion brand tea, with all of Compassion's profits going to support medical aid and education in Africa.

For those who may want a bit to eat with their beverage, Inklings is offering gluten-free breads, sliced-and-slathered toast with locally sourced jams and spreads, bakery goods and pies.

"Inklings truly is a community place," said Hannah Arionus, general manager. "As we open the doors, I already see lasting friendships being formed as our community is brought together over excellent coffee and the art of conversation."

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18 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 30, 2016 at 8:27 am

I prefer my coffee secular.

I saw construction workers in Peets! Can't wait.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:14 am

Anything is better than (YUCK!) Starbucks.

5 people like this
Posted by hoops
a resident of Mohr Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:12 am

hoops is a registered user.

I will make my own coffee at home and save thousands over a few years.People would be shocked if they buy a lot of coffee at Starbucks,Peets or here,in just how much money they spend over time.

7 people like this
Posted by Tricie
a resident of Mohr Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:19 am

Bill~ Have you been in this new place? Try not to judge until you've been there. It's beautiful, the staff is warm and engaging, and I promise you, NO ONE will be proselytizing - to you or anyone else. No need to be afraid.

7 people like this
Posted by In Dog we trust
a resident of Amador Estates
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:37 am

I take my coffee with a side of Atheism so i wont be patronizing this business.

now why the heck Is Philz not in Pleasanton?????

1 person likes this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 1, 2016 at 5:52 pm

What about Dutch Brothers?? slowly making its way to Bay Area.

6 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 2, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Since this is a religious establishment, are they exempt from paying property and sales taxes? Is that how they can afford to operate a low margin business in what is a very large and high rent property?

1 person likes this
Posted by DJ
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2016 at 10:07 pm

I'm not 100% sure a few of you making comments understand the concept of tolerance. If you don't agree with their beliefs or ideology here is a great opportunity to practice what you preach. Imagine if this were run by gays and Christians came here to make similar bigoted comments. You'd rightly be outraged because of their intolerance, remember you have to be intolerant of something or someone before you can exercise tolerance.

Like this comment
Posted by DD
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2016 at 6:40 am

Hoops,I so agree with you! I have one of those Bialletis, that make espressos on the stove top. I buy good coffee grounds, and it probably cost a very small fraction of what these people stand who in line forever pay for!

2 people like this
Posted by Happy Coffee Drinker
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 4, 2016 at 5:20 pm

In the land of blue bottle/4barrel/verve, it’s astonishing that I’ve had to wait 5yrs since moving to Pleasanton for a proper coffee shop. This place is fantastic. Really well done inside - impossible to see the remnants of roundtable pizza. It’s still a bit sparse when you walk in, but I’m sure with more business will come more seating and it will start feeling cozy. Also the staff is exceedingly friendly, which I could care less about, but nice to have. Now on to what really matters, the coffee. There is a massive cohort of SF transplants in Pleasanton that will happily pay double the price of Starbucks for a decent cup of coffee. I am one of those coffee snobs and Inkling doesn’t disappoint. I’m perfectly happy with Stumptown, ecstatic even. And there seems to be a real passion to getting it right, attention to emulsion and stabilization of milk when foaming, pouring milk over the coffee in less than a few seconds, down to the craft of the foam design. Not perfect, but pretty damn good and likely to get better over time. Also, the pastries are very very good. They don’t have the artisanal donuts and kouign-amann that are so abundant in SF shops, or the afternoon transition to both wine and a perfectly executed lunch menu that I get if I go to Danville for Sideboard. But the coffee forgives all sins. And speaking of forgiving sins - I was most worried about a heavy serving of Jesus with my coffee since this is run (sort of) by a local church. As a recovering Christian, I had my strong radar on. There are a few questionable little enclaves in the back rooms of what I can only describe as church-elder small groups, and the not-so-subtle wall of Tolkein, which anyone steeped in christian circles knows is basically a Christian demigod. And another wall with a Lion painting, which I can only imagine is a reference to Tolkien’s convert, CS Lewis, who uses a Lion as imagery for god. Another weird wall in the coffee shop dedicated to portraits of old white men - not a waspy Pleasanton thing, but Christian authors i guess. Might be worth throwing some race and gender diversity up there. But I digress because it’s a hell of a lot better than over the top christian imagery…the likes of which I would gladly tolerate for the coffee btw. Overall, the place is awesome. I plan to spend lots and lots of time there and so should you.

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