Any of our success depends upon our staff. That’s why we take care to hire people who are committed to our vision and mission. In return, we have some of the best employees that we could ever hope for.
We train any new hire to learn all aspects of the job. From washing dishes to preparing complex espresso drinks, we ask everyone to do it all. While it takes more time and energy to train people in all of these skills, our hope is that people have flexibility in their jobs.
Because we train our staff in all aspects of the job and because those skills take some time to hone, we typically request a 1 year minimum commitment.
Unlike other larger competitors in the coffee industry, we are committed to maintaining the art and craft of beverage preparation. Our bar training is intensive and even senior staff members continually check in with one another to make sure that the quality of their drinks is up to par.
The majority of our staff walks or bikes to work, even during the winter. We are big fans of bicycles and are excited that so many of our staff and customers are also cycling enthusiasts.
Bloc 11 is owned by Tucker Lewis and Jennifer Park, the same two owners of Diesel Cafe, located in Davis Square, Somerville. When Tucker and Jen decided to open their second store at 11 Bow Street, they had known each other for 11 years. They met at Herrell’s Ice Cream in Harvard Square when Jen was 18 and Tucker was 26.
Here are some interesting and some not-so-interesting facts about Tucker and Jennifer:
Tucker is a girl-child born on a Monday who was conceived in Ghana while her parents were in the Peace Corps. She is often seen carrying stacks of papers, shuffling them around and generally keeping things very organized. Many consider Tucker to be the glue that holds Diesel and Bloc together. Literally. Tucker is one of the handiest people on staff and is our number one fix-it person. In addition to being a fan of DeWalt power tools, she is also a beer lover. Unlike her long-lasting affection for beer, Tucker had never had a cup of coffee before we opened Diesel and has yet to drink a cup black. She is often seen trying to keep Parky focused and relaxed.
Jennifer is commonly known as Parky, Puh-Puh, Poohpeege, or Shenks. She usually responds to any of the above, because she has been known to have supersonic hearing. Mostly, though, Jennifer can be seen riding her bike back and forth on Somerville Ave between the two stores, singing bad pop music by the latest teen queen. Sometimes, you may see her in black running around the streets of neighboring towns. Other than that, she is usually seen eating, drinking coffee, or squinting because she doesn’t have her glasses on. 11 is also her favorite number.
About the Two: 1+1=2
Tucker and Jennifer are both the exact same height and weight. Strange, given that they are both 4 feet 11.5 inches (give or take a quarter inch). Despite some physical similarities, they are about as different as Tom and Jerry. Tucker can sit still and concentrate for hours at a time. Jennifer could start a fire under her feet running in the same circle over and over. (She has started a few small fires….) Tucker likes to relax and joke around. Jennifer is pretty silly but mostly serious. Tucker would rather sit on the beach with a margarita while Jennifer would be scrolling through her PDA checking sales and emails. Tucker has worked at Diesel Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights since we opened in 1999. Jennifer is never in the same spot at the same time twice. But, somehow, together, they balance each other out and hopefully do not drive their awesome staff too crazy with their quirks.
Bloc 11 Cafe
1a: a combination of persons, groups or nations forming a unit with a common interest or purpose
1b: a group of nations or persons united by a treaty or agreement for mutual support or joint action
2: a group of legislators or persons who act together for come common purpose irrespective of party lines
3: a word we chose because it embraced the spirit of owning an independent café-uniting people, creating community and building from this bloc(k)
1: –see number set
2: the 11th number in a set
3: our bow street address
4: the number of years the two owners have known each other in 2007, the year that the business was founded
The name Bloc 11 is a union of two words that encompasses the spirit and intention of our business. It is a reflection of what we hope we can achieve through owning and operating a cafe in Union Square.
Why Union Square?
Somerville has become our home. While we have lived in and out of Somerville over the past decade, we have made Davis Square our home away from home. Neither of the owners has ever lived more than 2 miles away from the stores and keeping it close has been important to us.
Union Square had been a place where we spent time, frequenting places like Precinct, Union Square Bistro, Sherman’s, Eat, Reliable Market, The Independent, Journeyman, and Capone’s. The large number of fine eateries in Union Square appealed to us as did the idea of staying in Somerville and joining a new community. Union Square Main Streets and Mimi Graney played an integral part of welcoming us warmly to the new neighborhood and the strong arts community, outside performances, and the farmer’s market all drew us to this square. The diversity in people, cultures, interests, and aesthetics all compelled us to Union. Aptly named, as this neighborhood does feel like a union of all things that we like.
11 Bow Street
When we first learned of the vacant bank building at 11 Bow Street we were immediately intrigued. Jen and Tucker originally met 11 years prior scooping ice cream in a space that was formerly a bank. It was in that same bank building where the idea of Diesel was first born. These reasons alone compelled us to take a look. We weren’t actively looking to open a second location when we went to look at the space. That being said, we had been floating the idea between ourselves for several years. Owning and operating Diesel took up so much of our energy that we knew it would need to be the perfect circumstance in order for us to take the plunge for a second time.
Spaces are supposed to be just that, 4 walls with a little embellishing along the way, but this space became our new love. Everything about it from the vaults to the courtyard to the beautiful brick lined interior walls were things that we had always wanted. So, when this space came to us, we could not say no. Tucker believes in fate. And while Jennifer may have a special interest in the supernatural, it tends to veer towards vampires and UFO’s. But, there is something admittedly fateful about a bank turned cafe, because we met in an old bank. Before Herrell’s opened at 25 Dunster, it was the old Cambridge Savings Bank. 11 is also Jennifer’s favorite number and we could not help but see these facts as “signs”. Signs that we had found our new home.
Little Known Facts
- Bloc’s floors were re-done 4 times in the first year.
- Before we occupied 11 Bow Street, it had been a bank for over 70 years. We have maintained all the original vaults. We found evidence of it being The Somerville National Bank, Shawmut Bank, and East Asian Savings.
- In the interior brick walls at Bloc, there is one lone brick that we saved from Diesel’s original build out.
- Bloc11 was almost named Apella Cafe, Pallet Cafe, Work, or Ounce. Instead, we named a salad at Diesel “The Apella”, a sandwich at Bloc “The Pallet” and Tucker’s dog “Ounce”. It all worked out in the end.
- Brooks Mostue from Mostue and Associates was our first customer. He was also our first customer at Diesel. I think he has the monopoly on that market.
- Seven is Jennifer’s second favorite number. Close second to 11. Prime numbers….That’s how we arrived at the sandwich name: “The 777”.
- Bloc’s Lamarzocco espresso machine was custom painted to match the green in Bloc’s logo.
- The Bloc logo was designed after a blossom from the dogwood tree in the middle of our courtyard that blooms every spring. It is sometimes hot pink and sometimes bright green.
- During construction, we found an old dumbwaiter buried behind 2 layers of sheetrock. It still had a green kettle sitting on it.
- During construction, we also found a huge gold ring with a large gem in it behind the safety deposit boxes in one of the vaults. Jen determined with her blind eye that it was worthless and threw it away. Tucker was mad.
- “The Elm” is named after Diesel’s street address.