Kiva Han is closing in February.
I don’t go there very often anymore because I no longer live directly around the corner, but I try to stop by as often as I’m in the neighborhood, and sadly, I was greeted by a sign on the counter announcing that due to a raise in the rates of their lease and “stalled growth due to competition,” (damn you Starbucks) they would be closing next month.
Kiva Han may not be my most frequented coffee shop, but it is my favorite. I am not a coffee snob, so I can’t tell you if they have the best coffee (plus I almost always order a froofy latte anyway), but they always get my order right, it is always ready quickly, and the staff is competent while still interesting.
Beyond the actual consumables, though, Kiva Han has emotional and cultural significance in my life.
Kiva Han was everything I romantically imagined a coffee shop to be when I was growing up in the 90’s. Northeast Philly is weirdly devoid of coffee shops (and Indian food). Certainly, they exist in droves in the cooler parts of town, and I always made sure to frequent them when I could, but in my mind, the ideal coffee shop was an extension of your livingroom, somewhere you could probably see from your house. To me, Kiva Han was the platonic ideal of the mythical coffee shop. There was always an acoustic guitar on the schedule, baristas with impressive but regrettable piercings, and at least one mysterious, brooding writer. ‘Zines scattered about. Kiva Han was the Empire Records of coffee shops.
And what will happen to the staff? They are not the same baristas we knew when we frequented the place. Not literally. But they are the same. The hot skateboard rider guy. The not-hot skateboard rider guy. The Missed Connection. The bald girl. The one-who-cries (in the back but you can still hear it). The Insanely Hot Girl Who Seems Approachable Because She Listens To That Band You Like. Won’t someone think of the baristas?
In college, when my current group of friends was coalescing into the urban tribe we became, Kiva Han was our Central Perk. Many of us lived in Forbes-Craig, the Pitt on-campus apartments for nerds. When making plans to meet for evening outings, it often made sense to bring everyone to a central location first and while it was a pain in the ass to let all of the non-FC residents into the building, it was very easy to meet them downstairs and around the corner in the coffee shop. We spent an enormous amount of time dicking around in there, probably making ourselves late for movies because we wouldn’t stop talking.
I met my birthmother for the first time at Kiva Han.
Nothing lasts forever, of course. Farewell Kiva Han. You will be missed. Especially if they put another freakin Razzy Fresh in your place.