Thursday, June 13, 2024

1369 Coffee House regular Kayleigh Fogle stands in front of the cafe in Cambridge’s Inman Square. (Photo: Julia Levine)

Stopping at 1369 Coffee House in Inman square is morning routine for Renée Williams and her 10-year-old daughter Raina, but on one chaotic school day morning Raina’s regular order of a small lemonade was losing to the bus’ arrival.

The bus pulled up and the girl rushed on and into a seat, without her lemonade. The vehicle stalled, however, as 1369 barista Steve Singer came aboard at the last second, running down the aisle to Raina with the drink.

“We started calling Steve our superhero,” said Williams, a regular of the coffeeshop for more than 20 years who has passed the habit to her family. The Williamses are at 1369 several times a week, if not every day.

Stories like this are not unique for 1369. The business prides itself on its cast of regulars, and by growing it has become an integral part of the Cambridge community.

Gerry Wolf opened the coffeehouse in 1993 in the former location of the 1369 Jazz Club. He opened a second 1369 in Central Square the next year. Wolf’s mission, passed along to his nephew and 1369’s current owner, Joshua Gerber, was to create a “third space” – the special place people escape to between work or school and home.

A 1369 Coffee House barista is glimpsed at work March 14 in Inman Square. (Photo: Julia Levine)

Opening Inman Square 1369’s door, customers enter a haven of warmth. The auburn, tan and orange of the narrow building embrace those who find their way in. Local art dots the walls, while hanging lamps, tea lights and even a miniature disco ball – an homage to the building’s musical history – form a canopy.

The design has largely remained unchanged. The consistency is what keeps some regulars coming back.

“When I came here, to this location 15 years ago, I remember that industrial piece of machinery,” 1369 regular Brian Hanrahan says, motioning to a large wheel-shaped fixture in the shop. “It stuck out to me then, and it still sticks out to me now.”

The coffee house “feels pretty timeless,” he says.

Staff and regulars at the coffee house have seen people meet, get married and start families; they’ve watched people grow up, move away and return.

Erin Hart, a regular of 1369 for almost 20 years, sits in the coffee shop with her usual iced black coffee. (Photo: Julia Levine)

Erin Hart, an Inman Square resident, brought her daughter, Neev, into 1369 within a week of giving birth.

An iced black coffee from 1369 has been a part of Hart’s mornings for nearly 20 years. Neev sweetened the routine.

“My daughter had her first chocolate chip cookie here. It’s little memories like that,” she says.

Gerber said he and Wolf strived to create a space welcoming for all kinds of personalities. The cafe’s regulars unknowingly toast their success daily.

“Josh really establishes that friendliness,” says Renée Williams, a regular of 1369 for more than 20 years who, like Hart, included family – her husband, Rob – in the process. “He hires so many different personalities, it’s just fun to get to know them.”

Isador “Izzy” Real sits in the window of Inman Square’s 1369 Coffee Shop. (Photo: Julia Levine)

The people who frequent the shop are just as entertaining. Isador “Izzy” Real has been coming into 1369 since it opened, and stops in three to four times a week. Over the years, that’s been in rabbit ears at Easter, and a Santa Claus costume around Christmas.

“I wanted to bring joy to people,” he says.

Although he says his days of dressing up have ended, he still spreads joy by dancing in line at 1369 while waiting to order.

Another breed of 1369 regulars are the local business owners and employees who work a few doors down and stop in for their once- or twice-daily brew. They say they value the relationship the coffeeshop has with its community.

Lisa Pereira, owner of Inman Square Hardware, is another customer who’s been coming in since the coffeehouse opened.

The Inman community, she says, is “like a family.”

Kayleigh Fogle, a Winter Hill, Somerville, resident who works at Gather Here in Inman Square, says she stops by 1369 three to five times a week. It’s not just convenience. Seasonal drinks such as the Cape Town Fog – similar to a London Fog, but using Rooibos tea in place of English Breakfast – and the Fig Spice Latte have stayed in her memory since she took her first sips.

Fogle also values the coffeeshop’s Drink for a Cause program. Every two months, the coffeeshop chooses a different drink to take $1 of each sale and direct to a local nonprofit.

“It’s really cool to see other businesses investing in their community,” Fogle says. (Gather Here has a similar program, We Care Wednesday, that directs money to a nonprofit changing monthly.)

“I am staunchly pro-my-square. I will always shop local – hyperlocal too,” Hart says. “I love keeping my money within my small little community.”

The coffeeshop, lively with personality and benignity, is an anchor of the village, Hart and Hanrahan say. 1369 is, as Hanrahan says, “an island of warmth,” in Boston.