Coffee with a side of support

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By Nicole Burdette / Staff Writer

By Nicole Burdette / Staff Writer

Back to the Grind is more than a coffee house, it’s a home-like environment that provides an outlet to all kinds.


Students, artists and locals gather there for various art exhibits, poetry readings, concerts, and of course, the tasty coffee and cupcakes.


“It’s kind of like a riverside icon. It’s the one safe place anybody can walk into for any reason. There’s no other place in Riverside that can be done at,” said Olivia Herrera, a small business owner and long time patron of the Riverside coffee shop.


Darren Conkerite opened the shop in downtown Riverside in April of 1996.


“I wanted to open a business for myself and to provide a service for the community as far as a central place to hang out,” Conkerite said. “We had done a little research on the community. I knew that there were poets and artists and singers that needed an outlet.”


The coffee shop is more than an art gallery. It’s a home outside of a home. The owners went to great extent to ensure that it was comfortable.


“Darren’s whole vision for the shop was a big living room- the couches, the bookshelves, the warm atmosphere. He wants people to feel comfortable,” said Talene Salmaszeda, an employee of Back to the Grind.


Salmaszeda is also the leader of their underground poetry organization.


The meetings take place on Monday nights at 9pm in the basement of the shop.


The shop’s menu is pretty homely itself, offering staple items like drip coffee (starting at $1.80!) as well as homemade specialty items like vegan peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, made by Talene Salmaszeda.


“The menu evolved and it’s still evolving. We’re doing more vegan and gluten free stuff,” said Conkerite.


Since there aren’t very many places with vegan options, this makes Back to the Grind the ideal stop for those that are wary of animal-products.


“We’re trying to find a balance of what sells and what people are interested in,” Salmazeda said.


Salmazeda had no idea that her recipies would be as big of a hit as they are today.


“It took me a long time to get all the vegan stuff in, It’s not just vegan. We have the gluten free stuff, the vegan pizza option, salads and hummus. The menu is always evolving depending on what’s working and what’s not working,” Salmazeda said.


The Grind is also an excellent place to study.


“We want students to feel welcome that come into the shop. It is very student centered in the afternoon and the evening,” Salmaszeda said.


The shop also has wi-fi which makes it a big hit with students.


Along with the location being a great study spot, Back to the Grind also does quite a bit to support local schools, including Riverside City College.


“Riverside City College club ‘Gender Sexuality Awareness’ is frequently here,” Salmaszeda said. “We’ve had shows for them, we’ve helped them raise money. We try to make sure that every event that is going on at the school is up in the window, If somebody brings us a flier we will put it up.”


This local business seems to do much more than provide coffee and art to its patrons. It is in fact, a piece of the foundation of this city.


“Darren, he does so much for our community, so much for the locals here in Riverside,” Herrera said. “Anyone trying to make it in anything they do- musicians, photographers, various artists from painters to sculptors, he’s promoted everybody.”


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