Siblings Jihan and Munir Bayyari showcase a bike rack outside downtown Redwood City's Cyclismo Cafe, which promotes healthy lifestyles and community by creating fresh food and drinks and providing an event space.
When Jihan and Munir Bayyari started looking for a downtown Redwood City space some two years ago, they initially had a grab-n-go coffee counter in mind.
The siblings were looking for the next step in their careers after Jihan Bayyari’s stint in Sweden where she ran a cupcake shop and Munir Bayyari had spent years working in jobs that didn’t satisfy his curiosity about foods and flavors. Though the now-co-founders of Cyclismo Cafe considered their space at 871 Middlefield Road several times before they eventually decided to rent it, it didn’t quite fit with their original vision for their new business.
“The original concept was never to have a space this large,” said Munir Bayyari.
But the pair eventually rented the space nestled between Redwood City’s downtown movie theater and the downtown Caltrain station, making adjustments to their menu and offering made-to-order breakfasts and lunches instead of pre-prepared meals and snacks. And in the little over a year since they opened the cafe in May 2016, the airy, modern space with brightly colored metal chairs and bicycle-themed decor has been filled with groups looking for a place to meet and get a bite to eat.
Host to birthday parties, packs of bikers looking for a pit stop, paint nights and talks with elected officials, the space has played a role as a gathering place for a diverse group of community groups, said Jihan Bayyari.
“It’s nice to know that you can be a part of trying to promote different people’s ideas,” she said.
The siblings, who were born in San Francisco and grew up in Redwood City, have also used the space promote their own interests. The cafe has become known for hosting bike check and maintenance workshops, gathering groups for bike rides and leading hikes at nearby county parks to create a community around healthy lifestyles. While in Sweden, Jihan Bayyari said she fell in love with biking as a way to commute, and was excited to fold it into her lifestyle when she moved back to Redwood City. Though she acknowledges the infrastructure in Europe may be better suited for bike commutes than the Bay Area’s currently is, she is convinced that by slowly shifting commuters’ mentality, the Bay Area can become a safe and enjoyable place to bike.
“It’s just the visibility and the sense of community and really getting people out is what’s going to change the way people plan for the infrastructure of our city that’s changing so fast,” she said.
With two daughters of her own, Jihan Bayyari is dropping them off by bike at their schools and said she tries to bike to work most days. She is hoping that by bringing Peninsula residents together around group rides and bike safety awareness, city plans will start incorporating measures that improve safety for bikers. The pair has found the intersection of their interests, active lifestyles and healthy eating, to be a natural draw for diners as well.
“It’s actually the same customer,” said Jihan Bayyari. “The person that cares where they spend their time, whether it’s commuting by bike, taking the train, going out and exploring their city, is the same person who cares about the kind of food that he makes.”
Munir Bayyari said he has enjoyed working with local vendors, such as the cafe’s produce vendor located near his residence in San Francisco, to create fresh, simple and healthy meals for Cyclismo’s customers. The cafe’s popular Mediterranean chicken salad quinoa bowl, which mixes colorful quinoa, cucumbers and tomatoes and shredded chicken breast together with pine nuts, parsley and red wine vinaigrette, has been a favorite since they began serving it, he said. Munir Bayyari said he normally starts his dishes with ingredients he likes himself and has been enjoyed the opportunity to be his own boss in the kitchen.
“Sometimes I’ll just get a bug in my head, unless I do it, I kind of can’t relax,” he said.
The sibling pair has also found an appreciation for fresh ingredients among their staff, who they said have become experts on the coffee beans roasted especially for their cafe at San Carlos’ Papachay Peruvian Coffee. Jihan Bayyari said they depend on their employees to help them create a community around their space. With a diverse set of talents, their staff leads bike check workshops, promotes photos of Munir Bayyari’s creations on social media and creates films for the cafe’s events, among other contributions.
“These people are here living and breathing it,” she said. “They have this emotional investment in this space.”
And it seems that Redwood City customer Jonathan Lindo has picked up on their efforts.
“It’s got an amazing community feel to it,” he said. “I think the sense of family here, that has a big part in it.”
Though the company Lindo works for has an office in downtown Redwood City, he said he works from the cafe many mornings each week. He said the community events the cafe holds is emblematic of the shift he has seen in Redwood City, which, in recent years, has offered events that have allowed the community to grow.
“To me, that’s one of the things that really differentiates Redwood City from other cities on the Peninsula,” he said.
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