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July 18, 2012

San Francisco has its fair share of third-wave coffee so we jumped at the chance to visit one of the East Bay's newest offerings. On a pleasantly sleepy stretch of Solano Avenue, Berkeley-based Local 123 opened a cafe within Flowerland nursery. From a charming 1969 Airstream Streamline Princess trailer, proprietor Frieda Hoffman and her business partner Alex Ebel churn out lattes, macchiatos, single-drip cups of coffee, and more. And the setting—a verdant nursery—couldn't be more right. Hoffman's "perma-popup" is opposite of what we've come to expect from the many cafes that seem to be victims of their success. Instead of chaotic snaking lines of undercaffeinated denizens jonesin' for their morning fix, we were treated to a peaceful garden setting, and gladly traded the drone of indie rock for the chirp of birds. Local 123's menu features coffee from Four Barrel, vegan donuts from Pepples, and pastries from Starter Bakery. Have a look inside the cafe in our slideshow.

Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Local 123 and Flowerland is the East Bay's version of S.F. favorite Flora Grubb.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Local 123 serves coffee and pastries daily, and sandwiches on weekends.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
The cafe is situated in Flowerland Nursery, which was first opened in the 1940s. The current owner, Carly Dennett, bought Flowerland about three-and-a-half years ago (she's only the third person to own the historic business). At the time, it was mostly selling sod, pesticides, and fertilizers. "It was kind of stuck in time," she says. Now, green-thumbed shoppers can peruse aisle upon aisle of flowers, vegetable starters, succulents, garden accessories, outdoor furniture, and more at the shop. "Dennett, a Local 123 regular, approached me about setting up a coffee cart at her nursery. We had been looking for the right second location for over a year at that time and I knew immediately from her vibe and her gorgeous shop that this was it," says Hoffman.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Before the 1969 Airstream was home to Local 123, it belonged to Oakland's Remedy Coffee. Hoffman and her team of helpers worked for three months to revamp the interior and bring it up to Alameda County's rigorous health code. "We enlisted the help of our artist friend and Local 123 Gallery curator Alex Case to fix the shoddy cover-up work, build out a proper hand sink, add storage shelving and stereo cabinet areas, install aluminum cove base, clean up and seal existing wood finishes, repair plumbing lines, reroute the precariously hung electrical conduit, and rodent- and weatherproof the trailer's floor. Friends and family helped repaint, deep clean the interior and aluminum exterior, and adorn the trailer," recounts Hoffman.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Hoffman let us tour the interior. Here's the side door.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Once inside, Hoffman (right) and Ebel (left) make an espresso drink. "With the help of our roaster friends at Four Barrel, we revived a 3-group Linea-AV La Marzocco, our workhorse of an espresso machine," says Hoffman.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
"Most of the existing brewing equipment was damaged or beyond repair, so we bought a Fetco Extractor for small-batch drip brewing, set up an inexpensive but sleek pourover bar (scale, Hario v60 dripper, Able Kone metal and paper filters), installed a new Ditting for grinding bulk coffee and Mazzer Kony-E for espresso," says Hoffman.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Some fine latte work by Ebel; the drink was excellent.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Cake stands sourced from local thrift shops display an array of cookies and sandwiches. On any given day you might find dark chocolate sea salt cookies, flourless peanut butter cookies, and hand-rolled vegan truffles.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Here's some of the cafe's glassware emblazoned with their logo.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Local 123's creamer station rests atop an orange metal ironing board found at Berkeley's Urban Ore.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
The nursery has continually been in operation since the 1940s and is peppered with vintage artifacts.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
A diorama inside the nursery shop, which is prime for perusing.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Local 123 is open Wednesday through Monday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Tuesdays from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (though the nursery is closed Tuesdays. Find the cafe at 1330 Solano Avenue in Albany, California. For more information, please visit local123cafe.com.
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Local 123 and Flowerland in Berkeley, California
Local 123 and Flowerland is the East Bay's version of S.F. favorite Flora Grubb.

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