It’s 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and I’m standing outside of Republic of Pie admiring the big frosted-white logos on their front windows. I am by no means a marketing expert, but it’s a fresh, clean example of great graphics and branding: modern fonts on a solid circle shaped like a pie.
I walk in and immediately feel like I’ve been or to L.A.'s own Silverlake (minus the hipstery pretentiousness). The high ceilings, exposed concrete and reclaimed wood paneling remind me of the quirky cafétaurants up north. In the back, there’s a wide-open lounge area of tables, couches and a performance area set up with a stool and microphone.
I order a six-ounce cappuccino for $3.25 and watch as the barista, Jon Stovall, pours the milk into a perfect rosetta design atop my coffee. There’s nobody behind me in line, so I strike up a conversation with him and he tells me the café had its soft opening last Monday. The owner and chef, Jon Stocking, is still perfecting his pie recipes, he says, but in the meantime they’re giving their coffee menu a test run. When I later check out their reviews on Yelp, Republic of Pie has already garnered a five-star rating in its first week without a full menu.
When I catch Stocking outside of the kitchen, he jokes he’s “the Jon without the hair.”
“I love this area and what they’ve done to it,” Stocking tells me when I ask why he picked the NoHo Arts District for his restaurant. A Burbank resident, he says he chose NoHo because of the location’s proximity to his own home and its creative community. The restaurant will also serve as a venue for local artists and musicians to showcase their work.
“Why pie?” I ask him.
In today’s economy, it’s hard for coffee shops to survive, he says.
“I wanted to do something interesting… something organic and healthy,” he tells me, and that’s why he chose to pair homemade pie with coffee. Come next week, they’ll be offering everything from sweet pies (think the classics like cherry or apple, and artisanal types like chocolate-pecan-caramel) to the savory (chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie).
Nearly everything in the restaurant is reclaimed or second-hand — the bar’s counters come from an old northern California dairy farm that closed, and the lights over register are made from glass telephone pole insulators. Most of the equipment was purchased used, as were the tables and chairs. The wood paneling is from a demolished home in Beverly Hills; Stocking was driving by the house when he asked its construction crew where they’d be recycling the wood. They told him they weren’t, so Stocking took it with him to repurpose for the restaurant.
Republic of Pie reflects Stocking’s personal and business philosophy — It’s evident in the space that he believes in creating a sense of community and maintaining a commitment to the planet’s well-being. The chef-slash-businessman wants his restaurant to be all about serving its customers, whether its through exceeding their expectations with great service or feeding them quality food and coffee from local sources at a price better than those major coffee places. He adds that customers will be able text their order for pick-up, and that he’s petitioning the city to remove the parking meters in front of the shop to create a loading zone.
Though the glass bakery case displays only one tart for now — half of a chocolate-pecan pie — and I’m the only customer there, the place is somehow still warm and inviting. Maybe it’s the community bookshelf and the comfy sofa against the back wall or perhaps it’s the windows to the pastry kitchen that welcome customers to watch pies in the making.
By the time I get back to my car, I’ve already enjoyed my cup of cappuccino to its last drop. I'm eagerly awaiting next week, when I can return for another cup of joe and savor it with a slice of pie.
Republic of Pie is located at 11118 Magnolia Boulevard in the NoHo Arts District. Their current business hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. all week; after their grand opening business hours are expected to be from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Republic can be contacted at (818) 308-7990 for more final details on their hours or for live performance booking.