A new, boutique coffee shop in Boyle Heights has outraged protesters who have labeled it as a “gentrifying” business.
Weird Wave Coffee opened near East Cesar Chavez Avenue and Soto Street last week and has since been met with picket lines nearly every day. Activists outside the business called it “White Wave Gentrifiers.”
Some of the protesters belong to Defend Boyle Heights, a vocal and active group that likens the “hipster cafe” to one that reportedly opened the door to gentrification in Highland Park.
Over the weekend protesters told LA Weekly that the presence of a craft coffee shop like Weird Wave Coffee creates an environment where real estate buyers and developers raise rental rates. Up to 75% of Boyle Heights residents rent and rising housing costs in the neighborhood have long been a concern for residents.
Jackson Defa, one of Weird Wave Coffee’s three co-owners, told the LA Weekly he and his partners just wanted to serve coffee and are not “doing a political thing.” Another co-owner, Mario Chavarria –who was born in El Salvador and raised in Inglewood– told the publication that the business isn’t about targeting some up-and-coming neighborhood, but just about selling coffee.
In a statement to Eater Los Angeles, Chavarria said: “Weird Wave’s approach to doing business locally begins and ends with keeping the flow of money inside the community.” Chavarria said they buy their produce from local vendors rather than a restaurant supply store.
The owners have also said that they contribute to the neighborhood by buying their pastries from Homeboy Industries, an organization that runs a charter school and gang prevention programs in Boyle Heights.
Some of the groups protesting against Weird Wave Coffee have also pushed back against art galleries in Boyle Heights, arguing that they contributed to the rise in rental prices and the displacement of longtime residents. One art gallery was vandalized with an expletive condemning “white art.”
Photo above: Protesters picket in front of Weird Wave Coffee on Saturday. Photo by Ernesto Orozco for Boyle Heights Beat.