Feeling good lately? Does the country, the world, seem good? With a divided electorate, a multiply indicted candidate, the dregs of a pandemic swirling through our psyches, and the hottest summer on record, sometimes it’s hard to find the good.
But you wouldn’t know that when patronizing Sacramento businesses. There’s Goodside Coffee, Good Bottle Shop (and podcast), Good News Wine and Good Things To Eat, which opened in Curtis Park last year. Until recently, Sacramento also had the streetwear brand All Good, which started selling streetwear emblazoned with “All Good Never Better” in 2014 and closed its Ice Blocks store in March 2022.
As backed by NPR, three of anything can be considered a trend in the “generally accepted practices of journalism” (although such trend pieces can also be considered a lazy journalistic trope), so four merits investigation. Is there an underlying cause, a common factor that unites all this goodness?
Or, as Nicki Minaj said during her famous 2015 feud with Miley Cyrus, “What’s good?”
Everybody needs some good news
Bennett Cross, owner of Good News Wine, which will turn 2 in September, has a long history in the beverage industry and in retail operations at both Blue Bottle Coffee and Equator Coffee and Teas (and as a freelance consultant). He is extremely thoughtful about every aspect of his business, including the name.
Cross was inspired and counseled by a friend, Al Keating, who runs a New Zealand brand called Coffee Supreme. Keating advised that a business name should be a phrase that’s already familiar to customers. When trying to decide, Cross was on the phone with Keating, reading from a long list of names.
The business opened during “a very depressing time” — the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Cross. “We wanted the name to be positive and friendly and fun and happy.” While brainstorming names, Keating stopped Cross at the phrase “good news.” “He said, ‘That’s it, that’s the one!’”
Cross worked with Danielle Harris of Look Look Studio on the “nostalgia-inducing” interior design, merch and branding, including the “newsie” mascot, a nostalgic cartoon figure in knickers and cap. The logo depicts him caught mid-stride, sloshing wine glass aloft, with a jeroboam-size bottle of wine tucked under his arm in place of a newspaper.
To continue the theme, their wine club is called Newsies and the slogan, emblazoned on matchbooks, is “Everybody Needs Some.”
The least offensive name
Chris Sinclair of Good Bottle Shop chuckles when informed that Cross, who he knows from the small Sacramento adult beverage milieu, waxed philosophical about his business name. “I’m sure he’s far more insightful than me,” Sinclair says.
Good Bottle Shop is currently between locations, slated to open in September on J Street in Midtown after shutting down in November 2022 in their former spot across from the Capitol. “We couldn’t survive downtown any longer,” Sinclair says. He’s been in the hospitality industry since the age of 16 and opened Good Bottle in December 2019 because “we didn’t have a dope, curated liquor store in Sacramento, so I wanted to do that.”
The new spot will be 150 square feet larger, with more room to “hang out, nerd out, talk and get an education,” Sinclair says. It will also have a podcast studio that can be used by others, in which Sinclair will continue to create the Good Bottle Podcast with his friend Drew Garrison.
As for the name, Sinclair spent nine months brainstorming and jokes that Good Bottle is “the least offensive of all the horrible names I could dream up.” In reality, he says he “diligently stole” the name from a friend in the industry, Dave Seva, who had hoped to use it for a shop of his own. “I bought a lot of his booze, though, so we’ll call it even,” he adds.
All even, and hopefully, all good.
Tripling down on good
As the oldest business of this group (it just celebrated its fourth anniversary), Goodside Coffee could be said to have kicked off this goodly trend. It also arguably did good by replacing a Starbucks with a locally owned business that exclusively serves Cat and Cloud Coffee, which is roasted in Santa Cruz.
“Goodside perfectly expressed the qualities of the products we service and the service we provide,” says owner Chuck Chase by email. “It goes hand-in-hand with our company motto, ‘Good coffee. Good food. Good people.’”
“Not only do we want to serve our community with excellent coffee and food, we want them to feel welcomed, no matter their life circumstances, beliefs, etc.,” he continues, gesturing towards the current divided epoch.
A historically inspired good
When reached by phone while busy prepping food for the day for her takeout-only restaurant, Good Things To Eat, co-owner Delcy Steffy admits she has forgotten about the interview appointment and might need a second run to make it coherent. She then proceeds to deliver two eloquent and perfectly rendered paragraphs. This may be because she touched on this in an earlier interview for this magazine in January 2023.
Steffy says that the name refers to the 1911 cookbook “Good Things to Eat, as Suggested by Rufus: A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats, Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc.” by the formerly enslaved chef Rufus Estes, one of the first to be published by a Black American writer. The connection is important to Steffy and her daughter Elinor, who she describes as ADOS — an American Descendant of Slavery.
“We like good in the multiple meanings of the world,” Steffy continues. “Our food is all scratch-made, none of it is processed. … It’s nourishing, whole food that we make ourselves, and it’s good in the sense it’s really tasty. … So you have those multiple meanings of good all woven into it.”
She also laughs when she admits that the name is a clever way to induce customers to describe their food as good right out of the gate. “If you were talking about us and say, ‘Have you been to Good Things To Eat?’ Well, right there they said it’s good!”
But do all these “good” names stem from how not-good things currently are? The thesis didn’t seem to particularly resonate with Steffy.
And given that there are also multiple Bay Area restaurants with “good” in the name — Goodtime Bar in San Jose, Good Good Culture Club in San Francisco, Good Times Oakland and over to the East Coast with Good Bar Brooklyn — it would probably take a historian, a linguist and a statistician (which could also be the start of a good joke) to prove whether there is a good/bad dichotomy trend in business names.
“There’s something about the word ‘good’ that has a simplicity to it,” Steffy says. “It’s not trying to dazzle you or wow you. We really can stand behind the word good.”
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