A new shop opens on a busy corner in Woodstock, right across from Our Lady of Sorrows

BECKY LUENING - The newly-opened Heart café at the northwest corner of S.E. 52nd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard has a light and airy ambience. Our Lady of Sorrows still stands, as the church always has, on the northeast corner of Woodstock Boulevard and S.E. 52nd. But the other three corners at the intersection have had major changes recently.

Pursuing one of them, on Friday, September 8, THE BEE caught up with Rebekah Yli-Luona, who with her husband Wille is owner of "Heart" a new café just west across the street from the venerable church.

It was only Heart's fourth day of operation on that day, but despite being the latecomer of the three businesses now leasing space in the new building on the northwest corner, the new business hit the ground running, and customers were coming in.

This is Heart's third café. The original is on East Burnside at 24th; the second is downtown, at S.W. 12th and Alder, across from Tasty & Alder. In addition to these retail spots, Heart sells their roasts online, and wholesales to cafés around the world – including L.A., New York, London, and several locations in Japan. Heart coffee beans were initially roasted inside the Burnside location, but in 2016, Rebekah and Wille opened a dedicated roastery on S.E. Hawthorne, between 9th and 10th.

Coming to Woodstock felt like fate, Rebekah remarked. The couple's home base is in South Tabor, so they were familiar with Woodstock. It was definitely one of several neighborhoods they thought would be a good location for another café "someday," but they weren't pushing to open another place; they wanted the company's growth to unfold in a way that felt natural, and not forced.

It just so happened that the people who bought the building were friends, and approached Rebekah and Wille with an invitation they couldn't refuse.

The café's development, likewise, was fairly smooth sailing. One of the building owners is a contractor, and oversaw the permitting, "which was huge," Rebekah said. Interior design was a time-consuming process; they made many choices, and inevitably changed their minds along the way, but ultimately they attained a satisfying space. Lots of wood provides warmth, and the tall windows and high ceilings lend a light and airy feel.

A display case for products helps define the service line, and also functions to divide the space into two sections – one with casual seating, the other outfitted with tables for dining or working. Though there are no plans to host special events there, the new café boasts considerable indoor capacity, as well as some outside seating behind the building.

Heart's hiring process was long, but as a result, Rebekah said, they have an incredible team. One challenge was finding a few baristas who were comfortable doing food prep as well. Because – new for Heart, and good news for Woodstock neighbors who have been hankering for another breakfast joint – this café offers house-made quality eats in addition to the requisite pastries.

The cafe's simple menu has something for everyone: Granola with yogurt and fruit, soft boiled eggs, side salads. Rebekah described a porridge of long grain white rice, red rice, amaranth, flax seed, and red quinoa, offered with sweet and savory topping options, and a handful of "toasts" made with a single slice of Tabor Bread (spelt or white wheat) topped with things like smashed egg, carrot and chickpea, and ricotta and jam.

In adding the food, the Woodstock café was designed with the kitchen out in the open, not hidden in the back, so that all employees work together in the same area and are a part of café life.

Although the busy boulevard already has quite a few espresso joints, 52nd Avenue is six blocks east of where most of those are clustered. In reference to Woodstock Boulevard's chronic traffic congestion, Rebekah admitted that she worries about accidents, and feels there should be a left-turn signal at this busy corner. In the four days since opening, she said, "Neighbors have been so awesome and welcoming, and have offered great feedback." She and Wille assure THE BEE they are excited to be in Woodstock, and look forward to being part of it for many years.

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