Concord startups — Cheers to local entrepreneurs, from coffee to wine and beer

Concord startups — Cheers to local entrepreneurs, from coffee to wine and beer

Concord startups — Cheers to local entrepreneurs, from coffee to wine and beer
Nichole Simpson’s Roadside 22 Beer and Wine Bar offers a casual neighborhood gathering place in Concord. Taste and Tell. (Richard Eber photo)

CONCORD, CA (Nov. 15, 2023)  — “Live with your cup half full. Create a positive space and a natural setting that reminds one of home.”

Such philosophy appears suitable for a gathering one might find in a church setting. Instead, these words come from entrepreneur Amber Winslow, who opened Gratitude Coffee Bar and Intersect Event Studios last March at Concord’s Park & Shop.

With husband Jake and friend Chuck McCallum, Winslow has created a new concept to compete with national chains Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee. Gratitude offers java with unique flavor from high-quality beans roasted in small batches from Theory Coffee in Redding.

Their décor resembles one’s living room, with sofas and tables set far apart to ensure a degree of privacy. Food offerings include Margherita avocado toast, turkey cheese croissants, Out the Dough cookies and additional items from East Bay Bakery of Danville.

Event space

To augment their coffeehouse, they have a large meeting room that comprises Intersect Event Studios. This space can handle large gatherings, seating 250 or 150 guests served at tables. Birthday parties, weddings, Guitar Center recitals, concerts and corporate events are among their growing clientele. Winslow said the studio has averaged one booking per day, with more events coming each month.

“We have been increasing our volume with more groups, including the Concord Chamber of Commerce putting on their Third Friday Coffee meeting,” she noted.

Friendly atmosphere

Gratitude Coffee Bar is not the only start-up venture in town with big dreams and aspirations. Putting her chips on the table, Nichole Simpson recently opened Roadside 22 Beer and Wine Bar. It provides a casual adult neighborhood gathering place at the shopping center on Clayton Road and Kirker Pass.

With a friendly atmosphere reminiscent of the iconic sitcom “Cheers,” Roadside 22 is a welcome addition to the local leisure scene. It’s a big step forward for Simpson, having operated a successful wedding-event planning business for the past 13 years.

Lacking the capital to have a quality food component, Simpson enlisted the culinary expertise of Randy Martin’s nearby Freewheel Pizza Co. His gourmet delight has previously been limited to internet sales of about 40 orders per day. By offering his menu at Roadside 22, Martin is able to expand his business without the huge capital expenditure of opening a new location.

Roadside 22 provides a spot for people to congregate while sipping a glass of wine or one of 22 beers on tap. Adding premium pizza to the equation should result in this place being a winner.

Gourmet peanuts and craft beer

There are many other local enterprises of note, including Kevin Martino’s gourmet spicy peanut treats. Working out of his home in Concord, he has produced these tasty products for a decade. Under the label Chef Kev’s Specialty Foods, 15 breweries, Ace Hardware stores and Los Montanas markets are among his clients.

With low overhead, Martino has made a good living but says, “At some point, I would like to have my own production kitchen and storefront.”

Another local success story is Epidemic Ale’s Brewery at 150 Mason Circle, Suite J, in Concord. They started as a group of amateur beer makers who helped learn their trade at Beer, Beer & More Beer at 995 Detroit Ave. some eight years ago. Epidemic has expanded its taproom while producing a wide selection of craft beers now served at finer Bay Area restaurants and bars.

It is no coincidence that Epidemic has offered Chef Kev’s products since they opened. Peanuts and beer just seem to go together.

Also noteworthy is Angelo Lonardo and his mom Jill’s Out the Dough at 3375 Port Chicago Hwy, Suite 6, in Concord. They began selling raw cookie dough five years ago. Since then, the business expanded with wholesale sales while adding a new location in Martinez that also serves pizza.

Small business is indeed alive and well in Concord.

Rich Eber
Rich Eber

Rich Eber is a local journalist and long time resident of Concord.  His diverse topics covered go from politics to gourmet food.  He can be reached at