BERKELEY -- The new Hippie Gypsy Cafe exudes all that its name implies.
The Gourmet Ghetto hangout is complete with colorful murals, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix posters and other furnishings that invoke the free-spirited, "Summer of Love" vibe that defined the 1960s.
But it also represents a freeing of the spirit for its energetic owner, Mary Dirks, who, after a divorce and a string of jobs, crisscrossed the country to realize her dream of opening a groovy little coffee shop.
"I want there to be a good vibe," she said. "I want people to feel like they are walking into a friend's kitchen, and a lot of people feel that."
Dirks, 47, had dreamed of opening a business in West Palm Beach, Fla., until she and her husband split. Ready for a change, she and son Matt, now 17, picked up and moved from Florida to Berkeley, where Dirks' sister lives and where they had vacationed through the years.
After arriving in Berkeley in November 2010, Dirks signed up for classes at the Bread Project through Berkeley Adult School. The free program trains people interested in food-service careers to bake.
For Dirks, the course built on skills she had already developed as a manager of a Subway sandwich shop in Florida. The customer service ethic she deployed at Subway came back naturally when it was time to open Hippie Gypsy on Shattuck Avenue last September.
No one who approaches the counter can escape Dirks' wide grin.
"I like the vibe of the place; it is very welcoming, very conducive to have a conversation with someone or to study or work," he said during a recent Saturday evening.
He gushed about Dirks.
"Mary is one of the friendliest people I've encountered as someone running a small business," he said.
Besides brownies, baked goods and espresso drinks, Dirks offers a menu of sandwiches and salads and hopes to expand options for customers soon.
The hippie décor is homespun, from the table cloths Dirks sewed together from pillow covers she found in a discount store to the gypsy wagon she discovered on Craigslist for $40.
One wall features a hand-painted Volkswagen bus; another features the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge. The bathroom is painted like an enchanted forest, and the key hangs on an old-fashioned Coca-Cola fridge.
Dirks kept the first $5 she earned from a customer, but not in a frame. It's in a display case, folded up in an origami crane.
She's looking for musical entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights and would like to start an open-mic night on the first Saturday of each month. The cafe is located between Francisco and Delaware streets.
What: Hippie Gypsy Cafe
Where: 1797-A Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday
Contact: 510-647-9114 or firstname.lastname@example.org