Pandemic puts Mountain View’s Red Rock Coffee on the brink of closure

Another Bay Area favorite is in danger of succumbing to the pandemic. The general manager of a popular cafe in Mountain View said the Red Rock Coffee is on the brink of closing its doors.

The coffee shop’s mission is to balance caffeine culture with community. Red Rock Coffee has struggled to pay high rents in the expensive downtown for some time.

Located in one of the city’s oldest buildings, Red Rock Coffee in downtown Mountain View has become more than just a place for a morning caffeine fix. It’s an institution for locals to gather, social clubs to meet and a birthplace for tech.

“We have been the location for places to do their startups and basically work from here,” said General Manager Jean Boulanger. “For instance, a little company called WhatsApp was first coded upstairs.”

It’s upstairs where art, live music and open mic events were held but not anymore with COVID-19. Increasing rent, wages and cost of goods coupled with COVID-19 restrictions has made it difficult for Red Rock Coffee to survive.

“Bottom line we are not making it with what we are taking in,” said Boulanger. “We are only about 30 to 35 percent of our revenue that we typically get.”

Red Rock Coffee is owned by Highway Community, a non-denominational church, since 2005. It runs independently as a nonprofit supporting local schools and causes.

“It’s part of the community here, it's part of downtown Mountain View it would be incredibly sad if they had to close down,” said Customer Hanna Onjea.

Patrons have started a Gofundme raising more than $40,000 in five days. The goal is to raise $300,000.

“It’s coffee shops and other local retail that adds so much to our urban environments and downtown areas,” said Gordan Douglas with San Jose State’s Urban and Regional Planning Department.

Douglas is not surprised by the community support. He said it’s part of the neighborhood's identity and unlike big box retail, it adds its unique flavor.

Boulanger is hopeful the business can weather COVID’s limitations.

“We really feel we can make it,” said Boulanger. “We hope to flip into our own nonprofit if we can get through the next 12 to 15 months.”

Boulanger said the cost to rent the two-story business in downtown Mountain View is $21,000 a month. She said that’s considered a deal given the square footage. The landlord has been giving them rent breaks.