Adeline Place on the Star Intersection corner of San Pablo & MacArthur may finally be getting a tenant. The 36-unit development’s ground floor retail that was required to be built, has sat vacant since it was developed in 2009. Hopefully, this is about to finally change. Adeline Collective is the vision of Michael Johnson, or “Emjay” as he goes by, and reflects the socially conscious values that he lives by.
Emjay is a graduate of the International School of Culinary Arts in San Francisco and has worked for world-class chefs including Michael Mina, Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. “I wanted to open a restaurant in West Oakland because it’s my home” noted Emjay who has lived nearby for five years. “I chose this location because I live less than 1/2 mile away and it’s centrally located between West Oakland and Emeryville.”
Emjay has an impressive background in restaurant operations and a local resume that includes P.F. Chang’s at Bay Street, Umami Burger in SF as well as running Hibiscus in Oakland until they lost their lease. His experience cooking in big markets like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have given him the chance to learn a variety of cuisines and create his own interpretations of them.
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Table to Farm Soul Food
Most are familiar with the Farm-to-Table Movement which encourages restaurants to work directly with local farmers or even their own farms. Table to Farm represents the next step in this food sustainability cycle by putting food waste back to work by composting back into the fertile soil at the community gardens he supports. “I want to be one of the pioneers of this new movement” Emjay added.
For ingredients, Adeline will rely heavily on local farms including the recently opened City Slicker Farms West Oakland Farm Park, West Oakland Wood (WOW) and he even has plans for his own garden. “I plan to source 80-90% of our vegetables within a 10 mile radius of the restaurant.”
Adeline’s menu will draw from Emjay’s multi-cultural background that introduced him to a variety of culturally rich foods and inspired him to fuse these flavors into his own creations. Southern staples like Fried Chicken, New Orleans Jambalaya, Beans and Rice, Po’ Boys, & Meatloaf. Emjay will also incorporate local references into the menu such as the “Adeline Burger” (ground in-house with skirt steak and sirloin). A complete draft of their menu can be viewed on their website.
The space is unique and consists of three distinct sections that Emjay plans to open in phases. One will be more of a casual cafe, one will be for more formal dining space and one will be for Community gatherings and private parties. Emjay intends to make the space as dog-friendly as the law will allow.
Small Businesses facing Big Challenges
Opening a restaurant in our city is a challenge and nearly every business I’ve spoken with has reiterated their difficulty working with our city and unexpected cost overruns (not to mention unexpected fires). One obstacle that Emjay encountered was a $36,000 “Development Impact Fee” the city assesses to pay for community benefits (uh, isn’t not having a vacant storefront or another Subway a “community benefit”?). “This was an unexpected cost that can really make or break a new business” Emjay added over a phone conversation. Some landlords absorb this cost as an incentive to bring a community benefit and tenants to their projects.
Emjay is trying to do this right and has an ambitious agenda to bring social and environmental consciousness to his menu and establishment is a noble goal. He’s even making his restaurant a collective meaning employees will be given a financial stake in the business and benefit from their success. He’s “all-in” on the area he lives and has committed to a ten-year lease.
Adeline Collective is making progress with the launch of their website and is hoping to begin construction soon and open by fall of this year. They’ve also launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help offset the cost overruns and unanticipated fees. Please help support local business and sustainability by contributing to his fundraising efforts.