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Paddy’s coffee house

By Simon Wong

Dec. 15 - all-day, pot luck party plus donations for Tree of Hope

UNION CITY, Calif. -- Contrary to rumor, Paddy’s Coffee House is not to close. Rather this famed institution, Union City’s only independent coffee shop, is relocating because its lease is about to expire. According to owner, Paddy Iyer, it is time for operational changes and structural alterations which are easier to implement at a new site than at 3900 Smith Street where the business has been for a decade.

Iyer always wanted to open a coffee house and, after a corporate career in IT, decided it was time for a change. So, when the opportunity arose, “Paddy’s” was born.

Statistically, many businesses fail in their third year of trading but Paddy’s is a neighborhood, community meeting place serving as the venue for many activities, past and present - open-mic nights, music nights, voter-registration drives, fundraisers for social causes, PaddyPalooza (an afternoon-long music extravaganza, in association with Union City Leisure Services), the annual photo contest, Sharing the Arts, Recycling Poster Contest, rotating artists and other events - which, with the community’s support, make all the difference. The current exhibition’s curator is from Union City and a former colleague, who entered the art business, and the artists are from San Leandro and Hayward.

Paddy’s is one of the first green businesses in Alameda County and the first in Union City to go completely green. The establishment composts and recycles all its waste. It is also one of the few coffee houses to be socially connected on the Internet with a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

“A decade is a measure of success but this is a very enjoyable business. For me, it’s a true passion, running one’s own business, being in customer service, meeting people, interacting with the community… akin to a calling,” stated Iyer. “We work closely with New Haven Unified School District, sponsoring the Kids’ Art Fair and other school events, and collaborate with Union City Leisure Services to highlight youth programs.”

In December 2008, former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico recognized Paddy Iyer as Union City’s Local Hero. He was honored in June 2011 as the 10th Senate District’s Small Business of the Year by Senator Ellen Corbett and received the Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Leadership Award in September 2012 from Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. Paddy’s is one of a few small businesses in California recognized by both houses of the State Legislature.

“Alberto Torrico was the first elected official to recognize us. It was a big surprise,” Iyer recalls with a smile. “When his office called, I thought it was a hoax but his representative assured me it wasn’t. When Senator Ellen Corbett’s office called, I asked if it was a joke. The reply was “No, this is Ellen Corbett.” When Bob Wieckowski’s representative sent an email, I thought it was spam.

“We’ve also received awards from the City of Union City and other organizations that saw what we were doing to the neighborhood, to the community and how involved we were. We never set out to receive awards or thought we deserved them; we only wanted to open our doors and provide a welcome sanctuary.”

According to Iyer, the decision to move has nothing to do with the City, landlord or location which is convenient for local schools, residences, the Saturday Farmers’ Market, other businesses and is on the way to Union Landing.

“We’re in negotiations for other premises and hope to re-open our doors in Spring 2013. Our temporary leave of absence will begin on December 16, 2012. We’d love to remain in Union City. It would be rude and unethical for us to turn our backs when they have given us so much. The City has been extremely supportive. The uninformed anticipate dealing with faceless bureaucrats but one realizes quickly that City staffers are as human as the rest of us. They want a success story; it reflects on them. With their help, Paddy’s has accomplished much. I’m extremely beholden to the City and cannot quantify the debt I owe them,” he confided. “The property management is also very understanding and facilitating a smooth transition for us.”

On Saturday, December 15, 2012, Paddy’s Coffee House will host an all-day, pot luck party. Everyone is invited. The party will end when the last guest leaves. Visitors are asked to also bring a donation of toys, clothing, household items or dry and canned foods to place under the Tree of Hope. Donors can leave contact details for large or bulky items. Centro de Servicios will distribute donations to needy families this Holiday Season.

Part of the allure of Paddy’s is the uncertainty of what might happen and the eccentricity of what does occur. Neither staff nor customers know what the day has in store for them. Who might enter? What stories and news might they bring? Staff and patrons are characters in their own right. Most businesses hold a grand opening but how many organize a Grand Closing?

“There are many memories associated with Paddy’s, especially for people in front of the counter,” Iyer reflects. “We’ve seen relationships form, families born, generations of family pass through, students, some of whom secured their first jobs at Paddy’s, graduate from high school and college and watched people become successful. Looking back, we put them through the academic drill and hope we might have played a small part in their achievements.

“We firmly believe people should support each other. Everyone needs someone. Our philosophy has always been to participate and be an integral part of the community. We hope that we do benefit the community and its endeavors,” explained Iyer. “Thank you to everyone. We opened with trepidation and have been overwhelmed by the camaraderie extended to us. We’re eternally in your debt and look forward to seeing you all soon at our new location.”

For updates, find Paddy’s Coffee House at and follow and

Grand Closing Party
Saturday, December 15
8 a.m.
Paddy’s Coffee House
3900 Smith Street, Union City
(510) 324-8572

Paddy's Coffee House, 3900 Smith Street, Union City

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