WALNUT CREEK -- Two years ago when the downtown Walnut Creek Library opened to the public, a corner of the $39 million building remained unfinished. But that corner is finally bustling with the long-anticipated Library Cafe.
The cafe serves coffee and sandwiches just a few feet away from the stacks of books and rows of computers. Its grand opening will be at 10 a.m. Wednesdayinside the library at 1644 N. Broadway.
While other libraries in Contra Costa County have cafes adjacent or attached, Walnut Creek's is the only one to have a cafe in the building. Patrons must keep food in the cafe's seating area and put lids on cups before entering the rest of the library.
The city spent an additional $330,000 to build and outfit the long-awaited cafe.
At first city leaders had wanted an operator to outfit the cafe, but that proved to be too much overhead for small operators, city officials said last year. In fact, the original operator's plans fell through.
So the city contracted with Mark Yekta and his two brothers to run the cafe. Walnut Creek created a turnkey operation, installing counters, sinks, display cases, and espresso and coffee machines, and now lease the space to Yekta for $1,250 per month, according to a city contract. The city will also receive a percentage of total gross sales above $55,000 a month.
This is not a first Yekta family business. They own and operate Cafe Pica Deli, a cafe in the Gateway office complex
He is happy to be in Walnut Creek.
"We always looked for a location that has a captive audience, and we thought that being in the library and the downtown it certainly has that," he said. "And of course being in Walnut Creek, it's an opportunity to showcase what we have done for so many years."
From salads to sandwiches, all the food is made on the premises, he said. And the cafe is a brew partner with Bay Area-based Peet's Coffee and Tea, so the menu -- complete with pastries and baked goods -- will look familiar to those who frequent Peet's shops.
Yekta now has about six employees but hopes to hire more as people learn the cafe is open. So far, with what he calls a "soft opening" over the past few weeks, business has been good, but people are surprised to find an operating cafe in the library, he said.
The cafe is open the same hours as the library, though he plans to soon open at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than the library itself.
Having a cafe in a 21st-century library makes perfect sense to Kristin Anderson, executive director for the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, which has its office in the library.
"People are used to meeting and doing business at coffee shops, and the library is a logical place for people to do that as well," she said. "There is free Wi-Fi throughout the building and people come here to meet and work anyway. Now they don't have to leave the building for something to eat or drink."
Walnut Creek isn't the only Bay Area library with a cafe; San Mateo and the Alameda Free Library also have them.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.