Local Must

Local MustAlex Bell, owner of Snow White Coffee, shares his story of launching his cafe, his lessons learned along the way and where he loves to eat, drink and hang out in Oakland, California as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide for Oakland.

Oakland, California

Snow White Coffee

"Trust yourself, trust your vision and trust what you want to do."

Farley's Coffee
Clove & Hoof
Top Dog
Cento Coffee

Snow White Coffee

"Trust yourself, trust your vision and trust what you want to do."

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Recommended in:
Oakland, California

My Story

"This shop is the result of a career intervention.

My wife and friends came to the consensus that, 'Working for other people is not working for you. You're not happy doing that, and we're not happy being around you when you're that unhappy.'

They told me, 'You always talk about how much you loved working in coffee shops like Farley's growing up, so go open a coffee shop.'

They caught me at a time when I was feeling stuck and not knowing what to do. I was really searching, and to have the people that were closest to me say, 'Hey! This is something for you that you love! You can do this!' gave me direction for the first time in a long time.  

I couldn't verbalize it at the time, but before Snow White, I felt I was devaluing myself. I was working for $X, but the companies I was working for were making $10-X on my work. I was working so hard to make someone else's dream come true, and I didn't have a passion for that.

I now work harder and longer for less money. I worked 355 of the first 365 days the shop was open, and I'm here 70 hours a week, 7 days a week. I'd never do that for anyone else, but because I'm working for myself, I'm a better version of me than I've ever been."

What I Love Most about Oakland

"I grew up here. The Bay Area is changing a lot right now and Oakland specifically is changing really rapidly. There are constantly stories about landmark business closing and how this town is struggling to maintain its identity and its history as all this change is going on.

I really wanted to make a place with Snow White Coffee that had a touchback back to the history and also fit into where this town is going. I wanted to kind of protect a little bit of the history of this place.

We're called Snow White because this space was Snow White Cleaning & Alterations for 48 years. My mom has worked across the street from this coffee shop, at Kaiser Hospital, for over 30 years. So to be able to be a part of this neighborhood and this community and to be able to give back in a small way is really important to me. I probably sound a little hippy and fluffy about that, but that's OK."

My Advice for Others

"Trust yourself, trust your vision and trust what you want to do."

My Oakland Musts

"Cento in San Francisco was a big inspiration for Snow White and Farley's Coffee will always have a place in my heart. They do it right.

Clove & Hoof is owned by a couple in my neighborhood and they come into Snow White all the time. We've become good friends and when you go into their restaurant, you can't help but feel like, 'Oh, yeah! This is cool. These people are passionate and love what they do.' That spot is more than just great food because you can kind of tell they just dig it.

Also, Top Dog is a great old school place that's just fantastic."

Alex Bell, Owner, Snow White Coffee

Snow White Coffee


Snow White Coffee
Alex Bell
Snow White Coffee
Farley's Coffee
"We want to hold on to that part of our society and our community that's sacred."
Clove & Hoof
"They're so passionate and they love what they're doing. It's more than just great food."
Top Dog
"Top Dog just makes me happy. I hope it never goes away."
Cento Coffee
"A big inspiration."
Snow White Coffee
"Trust yourself, trust your vision and trust what you want to do."

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