“Charlie’s Smoke Shop Reborn”
by Kathleen Boergers
Long time residents of the Grand Lake area fondly remember the Grand Lake (a.k.a. Charlie’s) Smoke Shop with its iconic red awning. Located on the corner of Lake Park and Grand Avenues, adjacent to the Grand Lake Theatre, it was a community touchstone beginning in 1931. Over the course of many years, my dad reliably got his Wall Street Journal there when visiting me from out of town.
After Charlie’s passing, the shop was operated for several years by Peter Brady before eventually closing. At long last, thanks to shop owners and Grand Lake residents Chris Pankow and his wife, Sarah Wilde, the space has new life and a transformation that has to be seen to be believed.
So head on over to the newly opened Wilde Brothers coffee shop for coffee, tea, and pastries. Where cigars, newspapers, and decades of memorabilia once lived, there is now a gorgeous shiny red espresso machine, marble counter, and high ceilings that make the small cafe feel much larger than it actually is. Who knew the ceilings were so high?
The space is bright with painted stencils that echo the lovely, green plants hanging in the window. The cream, black, and blue-gray color scheme reminded me of newsprint, a faint echo of the space’s former incarnation. Outside, the colorful café tables and chairs add a welcome bit of street seating.
Right by the transbay bus stop and not far from the casual carpool under the freeway, it’s the perfect location for a quick stop first thing in the morning. The same applies if you opt to pick up a cup of coffee before strolling over to the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
We are very glad to have this space in use again and are thrilled to welcome Chris and Sarah as business owners – not just neighbors.
Kathleen Boergers is a local attorney who has lived in the Grand Lake area for almost 20 years.