Wide Eyes Open Palms serves gourmet coffee for feminists, queer community

LONG BEACH — Angie Evans and Kat McIver proudly proclaim they have “The Queerest Coffee in Town.”

The Long Beach lesbian couple co-own Wide Eyes Open Palms, a comfy coffee shop and cafe on Cherry Avenue just around the corner from Fourth Street’s Retro Row.

RELATED: Wide Eyes Open Palms opens cafe

FROM POP-UP TO BRICK AND MORTAR

Evans and McIver initially opened as a pop-up coffee shop at the Bixby Park Farmers Market with their sights set on having a brick-and-mortar location. Three years later, they built their dream one cup of coffee at a time.

Evans is the barista. McIver is the chef.

Wide Eyes Open Palms, which opened in April, not only serves gourmet coffee and fresh-baked pastries and frittatas made from seasonal ingredients available at Long Beach’s farmers markets, but also creates a sense of community for feminists and the queer community.

‘THE QUEEREST COFFEE IN TOWN’

Rainbow-colored LGBTQ Pride flags, feminism books, and “The Queerest Coffee in Town” T-shirts adorn the space. Large picture windows offer a wide view of  Cherry Avenue, and high ceilings give the cozy cafe an open feel.

The coffee shop also has a gender-neutral restroom, and employees are trained in gender sensitivity.

On the menu, the rosemary latte with homemade rhubarb jam and ricotta on toast is a popular order with regulars.

In an interview with Q Voice News, Evans and McIver, both 34, dish about their love for food and coffee, starting a business, and living out loud.

Here are some excerpts.

Brewing an interest in coffee

“In mid-2000 is when specialty coffee started showing itself, mostly when I traveled to Portland. It was the first time I saw real coffee culture,” Evans said. “I researched and taught myself, with videos, how to do latte art and how to make the best espresso.

“Then I ran a coffee shop for seven or eight years,” said Evans, who has more than 13 years of experience as a barista. “That’s where I found my love for not only creating coffee, but also for creating a space for people.”

Becoming a food connoisseur

“I became a vegetarian when I was a teenager. It was the 90s in Orange County,” said McIver, who has spent more than 13 years as a chef in kitchens and restaurants. “My mom said, ‘Well, you better cook for yourself because I don’t know what you want to eat.’ I also got interested in food politics and started to think about where this food comes from.”

A T-shirt proclaiming “The Queerest Coffee in Town” hangs on the wall at Wide Eyes Open Palms.
“We’ve posted on Instagram as a gay coffee shop, and some people have unfollowed us,” Kat McIver said. “Good. I don’t want to see you. I don’t need that in my life.”

Before serving speciality coffee, they were Eco Dykes

“We had an eco-friendly cleaning company geared toward lesbians that did business organizing and spiritual cleansing. It was called Eco Dykes, and that business really took off,” Evans said. “We did that as a test to see if we could have a relationship and stay together and work together, because some people can’t.”

Growing from pop-up coffee shop to brick and mortar

We don’t have to set up and tear down our kitchen every single day. We’re able to be available more hours, more days,” McIver said. “For anyone who’s never worked at farmers markets, it’s really hard. You’re subject to the elements, especially if it’s a windy day. We once saw $2,000 worth of avocado oil spilled on the ground. You have two days a week to make your living, and if it rains…”

The name Wide Eyes Open Palms

“It’s a mantra,” Evans said. “Live your life every day with wide eyes and open palms.”

Political-activism roots run deep

“Angie and I both have a history of being organizers and activists,” McIver said. “My 20s was all about going to mass mobilizations. I was really into the anti-globalization movement, and food politics, the anti-GMO movement. But I really got burnt out. It’s so emotionally taxing.

“Angie was a very vocal feminist and touring musician, always putting on events and organizing things,” McIver said.

Two tablespoons of politics with your coffee

“We’re both in our mid-30s, and we wanted to be politically active in a way that was more sustainable for us,” McIver said. “This is a way we thought we could reach people differently. There is a subtext to what we do that is a political message. In this space, we try to make those connections.”

They’re here. They’re feminists. They’re queer. Get used to it

“We’ve always lived very out,” Evans said. “Everything we do is about, Where would I want to go? What would I want to see?

“If I walked into a coffee shop, and there were queer people, and the owners are feminists, and the coffee is sourced ethically, Why would I hide that?

Anti-LGBTQ? Wide Eyes Open Palms doesn’t want your business

“Maybe I lose some customers who don’t like gays, but then, I don’t want them as my customers,” Evans said.

“We’ve posted on Instagram as a gay coffee shop, and some people have unfollowed us,” McIver said. “Good. I don’t want to see you. I don’t need that in my life. That’s why I live in Long Beach and own my own business, so I can be as out as I want to be.”

A coffee shop for the queer community and feminists

“It’s not just a queer space; it’s a woman space. That’s hard to find,” McIver said. “A lot of single women like to come here and feel like they’re in a safe space where guys aren’t trying to hit on them.”

“Or make them feel stupid, or make them talk about their relationship or sexuality,” Evans said.

Pardon your gender type

“We have an employee manual about gender identity and how we address customers,” Evans said. “Personally, as a butch woman going out, I hate (the phrase), Hi, ladies.

“Everybody here has been trained to take gender out and ask someone what their preferred pronoun is,” Evans said “Being able to provide that rare space for someone, it’s such a simple thing, but it’s much appreciated.”

Kat McIver, left, and Angie Evans proudly proclaim they have “The Queerest Coffee in Town.”
The Long Beach lesbian couple co-own Wide Eyes Open Palms, a comfy coffee shop and cafe on Cherry Avenue just around the corner from Fourth Street’s Retro Row. Photo: Karen Robes-Meeks

Related posts:

About the author

Karen Robes Meeks

Karen Robes Meeks is an award-winning, Long Beach-based business writer who has spent almost 20 years chasing stories around Southern California. These days, Robes Meeks spends most of her time chasing her toddler daughter around town, which makes great cardio. Her stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and the Press-Telegram, where she was the trade and transportation reporter.