Snappy’s Café offers more than just coffee


Marina Swanson

Yamaguchi serves an unsweetened fresh latte in a mug.

Nestled between Hayward Video and a tax service business is a little place Hayward residents young and old can gather to engage with the community around them.

April Yamaguchi, the owner of Snappy’s Cafe, grinds coffee beans and pulls espresso shots each morning. The aroma of fresh coffee drifts through the small, cozy coffee shop and out onto A Street in Downtown Hayward.

Inside the storefront, locally sourced pastries, wild honeys, and hot sauces line the countertop; artwork by Hayward residents hang with pride on the red walls she hand painted herself. Flyers for upcoming community meetings, and open-mics held on the cafe floor are taped to the window.  A small, free library sits near the front door for guests to take a book, or leave a book, at their own disposal.

This quaint cafe is an independently owned coffee and food shop, which consistently encourages locals to utilize the space as a venue for culture, art, politics, and community support.  Or to just sit down, have a cup of coffee, and check emails with the free unlimited Wi-Fi.

Yamaguchi, who is petite in stature and always presents a smile, has served specialty drinks and house coffee for over three and a half years now in her shop with the community in mind.  Since opening, she has become an active member in both supporting and furthering local business and specialty stores in the surrounding area.

metro_snappy2“When I moved here I tried to find an independent coffee shop in the area, but couldn’t find one. So I thought to make my own to welcome the community into my shop,” she said. “From the very beginning, that was one of the things I wanted to do.”

Yamaguchi features an artist within her shop every month.  Small artisans, who are usually customers or friends of customers, can display and sell their goods for no fee.  During February, several artists will be featured, one of which, Ngoc Miller of AdorableMay, makes refrigerator handle covers and fingerless gloves.

The featured artist took a break from hanging her handcrafted pieces and organizing baskets of goods for sale, and sat down and reflected on the relationship she has sustained with Yamaguchi and the cafe.

“I first met April at the farmers’ market and started coming here, and I noticed all the art on the walls, which I liked a lot,” said Miller. “I just started this not long ago … and now I can sell it.”

Yamaguchi’s welcoming, attentive attitude towards the different characters of Hayward creates an environment in which many creative ideals can be heard and the appreciation of the eclectic and diverse landscape of their city can be recognized.

Last December, Yamaguchi began hosting “Coffee with Councilmen,” a weekly talk in which local politicians sit down and chat with residents of Hayward.  The cafe, in her eyes, serves those of Hayward as a hub to relax, create and engage in the local community.

Councilmember Mark Salinas has visited the cafe every Thursday morning over the past month. He says he plans to continue his visits through February to discuss issues affecting Hayward such as, “empty buildings” and “nothing to do for kids.”

“I chose Snappy’s because it’s a Downtown Hayward business representative of other small businesses in Hayward,” said Salinas, who is running for mayor this election year. “It’s small, family owned, and April works hard to market her shop to Hayward and the surrounding areas.”

Yamaguchi rings up a customer before preparing a drink.
Yamaguchi rings up a customer before preparing a drink.

Salinas comfortably drinks his pot of coffee in the corner of Snappy’s, says the owner. The familiar-faced, dark-haired man with glasses welcomes conversation with patrons, in his weekly makeshift office.  Yamaguchi notes that some people come with intentions to meet Salinas, while others happen to walk by and strike up a question with the candidate.

“Snappy’s is arguably the busiest coffee shop in Hayward with so many different activities,” said Salinas.  “It’s a small neighborhood coffee shop and Hayward shoppers should support shops like Snappy’s.”

Yamaguchi is glad that Salinas recognizes her facility as part of the community, and in her opinion, they have similar beliefs about supporting local businesses in Hayward.

Her longest running, local partnership is with Eon Coffee: a coffee bean roaster, distributor, and health-food cafe based a few miles down the road.  Yamaguchi first started as a customer at Eon, and when she opened her own cafe, she opted to serve their beans due to the taste and location.

“I like to work with small businesses because they share the same vision, same concerns and programs as me,” she explains. And this mentality is well displayed in Yamaguchi’s cafe: from the functional art bench made of recycled materials crafted by a local woodworker, to the hand-roasted coffee beans in her grinders.

Snappy’s Cafe is part of United Merchants of Downtown Hayward, an alliance aimed to “improve the communities environment, and business” and has approximately 40 members and concerns itself with the safety issues and sanitation concerns within the downtown area, according to Renee Rettig, founder of UMDH.

She not only hosts prominent Hayward city figures and organizations, such as Rep. Eric Swalwell, and Sara Lamnin the Hayward Planning Commissioner and program director of Hayward Community Action Network, Yamaguchi is a leader herself in the eyes of her peers.

“April’s easily the linchpin, the glue of our group; from contributing insightful ideas and feedback, to shaping and sending our agendas,” says Rettig. “She provides space in her café for thoughts to take root and grow; for our members and the public alike.

With no plans for another coffee shop, Yamaguchi wants to stick to serving the Hayward public at her unique store, with a smile on her face and an open door to the inner workings of the community.  Her customers are always welcome to organize their functions and meetings in the shop, and Yamaguchi wants to give her city a place to express itself and feel welcome.

“April, and Snappy’s Café, have become indispensable to the character and quality of our downtown,” remarks Rettig. “Such a warm and welcoming person and place to look forward to, seven days a week, is a treat that Hayward is so lucky to have.”

Yamaguchi has lived in Hayward for over 20 years, and initially moved here to start a job after her undergraduate studies at UC Davis.  But soon she found herself interested in starting a business instead of pursuing a desk job. She attended California State University, East Bay and received her graduate degree in business, which lead to the establishment of her self-owned cafe.

Yamaguchi gives to Downtown Hayward, something she felt it was lacking: an inviting, independent coffee shop.  The cafe engenders her simple charm, and the dedication she has to serving the community around her.

One of the many upcoming and locally organized events at Snappy’s Cafe is an increasingly popular second Saturday craft meet-up, where locals can bring their own crafts and construct their individual art. A calendar of events can be found on Snappy’s Cafe website.

Symbols of her customer and associate’s appreciation for Snappy’s can be seen scattered about the shop.  The Snappy’s logo, a cartoon turtle, has turned into a collection of turtle figurines, gifted to Yamaguchi from time to time.

“Someday, I’m going to count them all,” she said with a smile.