2023 has been quite the banner year for Equator Coffees. In honor of 10 years of the Proof Lab—their first cafe—and nearly three decades roasting, Equator has been hosting a handful of celebratory events and launching special coffees and merch. But founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell are not resting on their laurels and are instead expanding Equator’s footprint even more with an all-new cafe in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.
Their second of such LA outposts, the first being over in Culver City, the new cafe is the 10th for Equator, and it shows a significant investment in growing the brand outside of the Bay Area and northern California at large. It’s been an exciting 2023 thus far for Equator, but the year isn’t over yet.
As told to Sprudge by Laura Beaudrow.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
In 1995, Equator Founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell began their values-driven path, roasting coffee in a Marin County, CA garage. Possessing an obsessive commitment to green coffee sourcing and unparalleled roasting expertise, Helen and Brooke have committed over 28 years to sustainable and fair trade coffee practices all in the name of creating a remarkable coffee experience for consumers. Today, Equator Coffees is a retail and wholesale coffee roaster and coffee farm owner with 10 retail cafes throughout California—from Marin County to San Francisco to Oakland and beyond. Throughout the years, Equator Coffees has spearheaded industry-leading sourcing and roasting practices, and has forged progressive partnerships with Michelin-starred chefs, specialty grocers, tech campuses, and more. Women-owned, LGBTQ-founded and an early adopter of Fair Trade certification, Equator Coffees is the first California coffee roaster to achieve B Corp Certification.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our newest location, and our 10th cafe currently open statewide, is an exciting step in our brick-and-mortar expansion from the Bay Area to the greater Los Angeles area. Situated in the Beverly Grove neighborhood in the heart of the iconic Fairfax District, the cafe is just steps away from city landmarks and attractions, including Canter’s Deli, Jon & Vinny’s, The Grove Shopping Center, The Original Farmer’s Market, CBS Studios, and the LACMA Museum District.
“Today, as much as when we opened our first cafe 10 years ago, we want to create an inspiring environment for guests that invites them to experience coffee that’s roasted better, brewed better, and, most importantly, sourced in a way that makes lives better,” said Helen Russell, Co-founder of Equator Coffees. “Our intention remains strong to continue to create inclusive and welcoming spaces for all.”
What’s your approach to coffee?
Equator Coffees was founded on the belief that coffee can be roasted better, brewed better, and, most importantly, it can be sourced in a way that makes lives better. Founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell began roasting and selling coffee out of a Marin County garage in 1995, and that garage marked the beginning of a high-impact coffee company focused on quality, sustainability, and social responsibility.
After two decades, 10 cafes, and thousands of cups of coffee served, our impact has grown but our values remain the same. Equator was named after the region where coffee grows, but has come to mean so much more than that. As we trace the path from source to sip, we try to make everything we touch better. From people to planet. Because we believe coffee can do more than just taste good. It has the power to do good too.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
La Marzocco KB90 espresso machine
How is your project considering sustainability?
At Equator Coffees, holistic sustainability is at the heart of our core values, and we’ve incorporated it into the very fabric of our new cafe in a few ways. We prioritized locally sourced furnishings, allowing us to support local artisans and reduce our carbon footprint by minimizing transportation distances. Additionally, we embraced the concept of “adaptive reuse” when selecting the location for our new cafe. By repurposing a space that previously housed a cafe/coffee shop, we aimed to maximize the use of existing infrastructure, minimizing waste and the need for a complete demolition and rebuild. This thoughtful approach not only aligns with our commitment to sustainability but also adds character and a sense of history to our new cafe, creating a welcoming environment for our customers while minimizing our impact on the environment.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Mid July 2023
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Designed by The Studio For, Equator Fairfax delivers a lifestyle coffee experience all under one roof, reconceptualizing the location’s original aesthetic with the brand’s signature red and black color palette for an industrial-chic appeal. The 860-square-foot main dining area accommodates up to 14 patrons and features furniture entirely produced by local Los Angeles artisans—including a selection of natural wood, Scandinavian-inspired tables and seating that integrates custom lux vinyl with textile upholstery for an added touch of dimension. Complementing the decor are original murals by LA Hope Dealer (Corie Mattie), a famed street artist known for hope-filled designs featuring doves.
Photos by Wonho Pho