A new art collective on the East side, Canopy, is helping to change the neighborhood. The East side is rife with complaints about gentrification as established communities are pushed out in the name of progress. Thriving businesses are bulldozed over, reducing stock and lives to rubble in a process of cultural genocide. Rents are raised and those of lower incomes watch their foundation disintegrate beneath their feet to those that can afford to buy, slap on fresh cement, and live shabby chic. Canopy is a model on how a company can move in, take an unused area and rebuild with an idea in mind, in a way that does not undermine its neighbors. A warehouse (and in a previous life a Goodwill processing center) has been converted into an open space for art galleries and installations. Not everyone will be able to afford what is there, but there is no charge for looking. If they manage to show works from local artists, represent the culture and history of their new home, and even contribute back to their community, then Canopy will be a model of how it is done.
The only restaurant space within the complex is Japanese inspired Café, Sa-tén. It fits within the atmosphere that Canopy is cultivating. Inside the decorations is eclectic, but with intention. Mismatching wood grain and brown coloring pair with squirrel wallpaper on a corner wall. Little hands will be drawn to the act of stroking the grain in order to comprehend the textures offered within the space. Concrete floors and a cinder block style wall oppose the glass garage doors that make up another. Most of the seating in the area has couples or singles in mind. Narrow two chair tables and a long bar with high stools fill up the space. A long couch is the only solution for a gathering of comrades to lounge upon.
Their book selection includes manga volumes, catalogues from previous EAST Austin tours, and jazz histories. The music selection falls in line with the expected: soothing popular Jazz artist’s horns and vocals is heard over unseen speakers. A handful of board games are available for those looking to play squished up on the space the tiny tables provide. There are subtle touches here and there to remind of the Japanese influence being cultivated by Sa-tén .
Pricing is not dirt cheap, but nor does it result in a sad little moth fluttering out of your wallet after purchasing one drink. Their selections are comparable to other coffee selections in town. Aside from the atmosphere, the companion menu is what keeps the customers coming from far flung locations. Light Asian fusion inspired meals and delicious little sandwiches with potato salad sit well on the stomach while sipping a drip brew. Their hot chocolate is sugary and sweet. Drinks are served in large wide, white, coffee mugs imitating the yawning of a mouth hungry for more.
The appeal of a coffee shop is how close to home it is. Located just down the road, off of Springdale, I could walk the distance. Instead I drive in order to save more time for attrition. I browse the art space kicking myself for not doing more with my spare time. It is perfect for those early morning lazy days, not a hangover cure but a time to contemplate. Away from the bustling activity that makes up Austin, Sa-tén is reserved in décor and attention so that your state may match it as well.
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