By EMILY RAMSEY
CAFFEINE FOR THE 918: Tulsan Morad recognized the need for a coffee shop in the area. He opened 918 Coffee, 2446 E. 11th St., in July; the shop offers espresso and non-espresso beverages plus pastries and sandwiches.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
After the closing of Borders, located at 21st Street and Highway 51, Morad El-Raheb, a Hillcrest physician, and his business partner felt the void. They used to enjoy taking their breaks at the nearby bookstore and coffee shop.
El-Raheb, a 20-year Tulsa resident, already owned two buildings on 11th Street, east of Hillcrest. So when he saw a nearby property come available, he quickly leapt at it with a clear vision of what the space would become.
The unique building, a small cottage with an attached garage, was built in 1928, operating initially as a gas station. It later became a mechanic shop before going up for sale last year.
After El-Raheb purchased the store, he set out to remodel it and turn it into 918 Coffee, 2446 E. 11th St., which opened in July.
While the majority of the building had to be redone, certain remnants from its younger days remain, including the building’s exterior, some of its windows and the front door, which had to be stripped of six layers of paint before being restored.
El-Raheb also repurposed some large tool boxes that were left behind from the previous owner; they have been turned into a condiment bar and storage cabinets.
Though the coffee shop has, technically, two entrances—one through the cottage, the other through the glassed-in garage—El-Raheb hopes patrons will enter through the cottage, which brings them through a small entranceway before entering the larger seating area.
“That (way of entering) keeps the noise and activity level low for guests and the temperature from constantly changing,” he says.
The most noticeable attribute of the shop is its abundant seating options, which have proven to be a draw for business meetings and small groups, says El-Raheb.
However, the comfortable mixture of couches, tables and chairs with a side bar do much to add interest to the room and create an unexpected feeling of warmth. Add to this the coasters, magazines and colorful floor mats for wet feet, and the homey feel that El-Raheb was going for is complete. (Of course, free wifi is also available.)
The light-colored room has wood and steel accents with photos of local, well-known Tulsa locations and art deco buildings, all taken by local photographers.
Some may wonder about the recent surge in area coffee shops and their ability to sustain themselves; however, El-Raheb isn’t too worried about finding his niche.
His focus is coffee, he’s quick to say. He searched through coffee roasters at national conferences on both coasts before finding a roaster based in Denver, Colo., who rose above the competition—providing what El-Raheb feels is an “excellent cup of coffee.” Teas, smoothies and juices are also available with pastries provided by Merritt’s Bakery and sandwiches and paninis from Reasor’s.
The food and drink options provide a welcome variety for the coffee shop’s diverse customer crowd, which includes those commuting to work, families in the nearby neighborhoods, TU students and teachers at Mayo Demonstration School.
But, no matter what a person’s daily routine is, El-Raheb has one goal in mind: “I want this to be a neighborhood coffee shop, where people can get a good cup of coffee and relax.”