Trouble Coffee, which helped start the artisan toast craze, closed after 15 years as the sun went down

A beloved and eccentric company in the Avenues has gone out of business after 15 years, and we should all take a moment to mourn it.

Trouble Coffee, a unique coffeeshop that served as a pathway to mental and financial stability for its owner, Giulietta Carrelli, and in the meantime has become a go-to business for one of San Francisco’s foggiest and most unusual corners , closed its doors. Carrelli hasn’t publicly commented on the closure, but as the Chronicle reports, she personally turned over the space at 4033 Judah Street to neighbors Laura Seymour and Colin O’Malley, who operate DamnFine Pizza — which opened in January. 2021 – and neighboring Sunset Canteen. Seymour and O’Malley plan to open DamnFine Coffee in space, continuing to serve coffee and toast and a few other items, but things will be quite different from Trouble Coffee.

By the time “$4 toast” became an oft-repeated mantra and symbol of all that was wrong, too precious and too gentrified about San Francisco a decade ago, Carrelli was whipping up thick slices of Cinnamon Toast for its customers for about five years. years already. And no one complained.

As Carrelli explained in an episode of This American Life as of 2014, there has never been anything precious or artisanal in Trouble Coffee. The business, and its idiosyncratic menu of coffee, young coconuts, cinnamon toast and grapefruit juice, grew out of bouts of mental health Carrelli had had since her teenage years – something she always had. called a “problem” before it was diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder in his early thirties. Food felt like poison to her when trouble set in, but coconuts were oddly one of the few things she could bear to eat – and they’re quite nutritious as long as you’re also getting vitamin C, hence the grapefruit juice.

As for the toast, she explained, “My mom used to give me a toast. And so when I first opened Trouble, I wanted to feel safe. Toast, that was it for me. And I also knew it was going to be that for a lot of people. No one can be mad at toast. I mean, it’s toast. It’s cinnamon toast.

It started with coffee because it seemed like a business she could handle, with no experience. She was working, and sometimes sleeping in, a coffeeshop somewhere else in town, and her boss there gave her the advice to open her own shop, which was all she needed: “He was like, just take some cups, make coffee. When you run out of cups, close the door and fetch more cups.”

Trouble Coffee opened in 2007 as The Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club, and quickly gained a following. Carrelli, with her face tattoos and other tattoos and outfits that usually included a crop top, said she looked the way she did so people would recognize her — and maybe help guide her home if she had a bad episode. And the coffeeshop was also part of this self-preservation plan.

“There are so many people connected through this network of Trouble Coffee. I may be just a tiny place, but it’s pretty well known, because I have to be well known,” Carrelli said. This American Life. “I mean, I was just walking home before you got here. And it was this man with his son, and he said, hey, you’re Trouble, aren’t you? And I just went there, of course I am.”

Photo: Michael Jang/Instagram

Five years would pass between Carrelli’s first cinnamon toast orders and the trend that would come his way – thanks in part to higher-profile, more candle-friendly companies like The Mill. Josey Baker, the owner and baker of The Mill, gave credit to Carrelli, telling This American Life that’s pretty much where to look for the origin story of the $4 toast — though Trouble’s toast was still a bit cheaper.

Now it’s almost quaint that people were complaining about toast a decade ago – and most of them probably hadn’t even tried Baker’s or Carrelli’s toast, they were just complaining on the internet of the very concept of expensive toast, ignoring the wonders – or price – of good, fresh, thick, toasted bread, and delicious toppings.

The reasons for Trouble’s closure could be many, and we shouldn’t speculate – the coffeeshop tried to expand over the past decade with locations in the Bayview and West Oakland, but both have since closed, and in January the business was vandalized, with a window and neon lights to be replaced.

At the next DamnFine Coffee, you can expect cinnamon-avocado toast on focaccia bread, Seymour tells the Chronicle, as well as sliced ​​pizza. Also, pastries from Black Jet Baking Co. – which made headlines this week with its gleefully profane cakes protesting the Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade to spill.

DamnFine Coffee is opening this weekend, and you might recognize some of Trouble’s employees, who will be back behind the counter.

Related: The Eight Best Slices of Toast (That Look Like Ruined San Francisco or Other)

Photo credit: Giulietta Carrelli/Instagram


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