Cala Coffee has quickly become one of the Magic City’s favorite pop-up experiences. The coffee cart’s owners, Josh and Melanie Cosio, are now taking things to the next level with the company’s first brick-and-mortar location. The store can be found in Cahaba Heights and will open before the end of the year. In addition to providing a one-stop shop for Cala Coffee and a new community space in the city, the new location will also be utilized by another Birmingham favorite in Uncle G’s Pizza as a commissary which also means some fun coffee and food combinations for the residents of our fair city.
The Cosios founded Cala Coffee in March 2021. Melanie and Josh had shared visions of one day owning a coffee shop together, but their two careers made it seem like a far-away dream. Josh worked in the live event industry, which was heavily impacted by the pandemic. He found himself realizing he needed to pick up a new hobby or he would go crazy from having nothing to do. “So I picked up coffee roasting just for us at home,” Josh shares, “I consider myself a creator so without really thinking it through all the way I created an Instagram page and a brand before I even started roasting. Mostly for our friends to follow along on my home-roasting journey.” Friends quickly asked to try some of the coffee and loved it, and soon the Cosios were finding new fans of their roasts on a Cahaba Heights community page.
“I realized what I love about coffee is the human connection,” Cosio shares, “While I was roasting and took pride and took pride in the quality of the roast of our coffee, what I really loved about that was creating something for others to enjoy.” Cala Coffee needed to be more than delicious bags of coffee for purchase, the company wanted to place a focus on human interaction. The famous Cala Coffee Cart was acquired and the Cosios soon found themselves at the Birdsong Farmer’s Market at Automatic Seafood on Saturdays. The market experience was going great, and Birmingham’s coffee entrepreneurs were ready to slowly start looking for a brick-and-mortar location that would make sense for their vision.
Cahaba Heights is a major part of the Cosio’s lives already. They call the neighborhood home and knew they wanted to start their business in the area if the right opportunity was found. Josh kept passing by a warehouse while dropping off coffee beans at the post office, and eventually asked a friend who worked in retail about the space. That friend found the owner of the building, wrote them a letter, and the next thing you know Cala Coffee is the newest business opening in their favorite neighborhood. They signed the lease last December and began construction in early summer 2022 to lead to the exciting opening.
The space is meant to be social or as a Cala Customer put it provide the often-missing “third space” to people in Birmingham (home and work are our “first” and “second” places and it is often thought that having a “third” community space is an important step to balancing life a little bit better). “We want to bring a space here in Cahaba Heights for people to hang out and meet strangers. My wife and I went on coffee shop dates all the time so one of our dreams is to eventually meet a couple who first got married at our coffee shop. Stuff like that.”
Another goal of the building is to simply have fun, and Cala’s has the perfect Birmingham business renting out their commissary space to complete this goal. “Uncle G’s is a similar brand in that they break the rules of pizza, have fun, and do what they want to do. We’re kind of the same way. We want to do fun stuff and maybe it doesn’t always align with your typical coffee shop.” This means fans of the partner pop-ups these two businesses held in the past can expect more fun collaborations in the very near future.
The addition of Uncle G’s, who also recently announced their exciting new residency selling pizzas at Ghost Train Brewing, in the kitchen space could also lead to “Take and Bake” pizzas being available from their new commissary home. While all of this benefits the taste buds of Birmingham residents - the partnership also provides financial pluses for both rising companies. Cala and Uncle G’s are both owned by fairly-new entrepreneurs that fell in love with providing for the city of Birmingham and are strategically moving to do so long-term. “It almost felt like we’re in the same graduating class by starting small businesses around the same time,” shares George Giliam of Uncle G’s, “We’ve just kept up with each other and formed a friendly relationship.”
George and Christina Giliam also began their food journey in Cahaba Heights, and join the Cosio’s enthusiasm in setting up shop in such a welcoming neighborhood. “To come back into Cahaba Heights and become a part of that community again is really meaningful to us,” Giliam shares, “I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for that part of town. It feels right to us to be coming back there and to be setting up shops in Cahaba Heights. It feels really, really good.”
For Josh and Melanie, Cahaba Heights isn’t only the neighborhood that first supported their business - it’s the very definition of home. “We moved here in 2016 from California. We had never been to Alabama before we loaded up a U-haul and moved across the country,” Josh shares. At the time the couple thought they would only be in the state for a year. “We found a really awesome friend group and community that has embraced us. Ended up going to grad school here for three years. We live in Cahaba Heights. We both started working full-time in Cahaba Heights. Our gym - which we’re a big part of that community - is in Cahaba Heights. The fact that our whole circle is in a one-mile radius and now we get to put a coffee shop right in the middle of that - it definitely means a lot. Coming from people who don’t have any family here - besides our chosen family of friends.”
We feel blessed Cala Coffee embraces the Birmingham community like they do, and are excited for the Grand Opening of this new community space!