Steynberg Gallery, located on Monterey Street, has become not just a coffee shop, but a place of comfort, friendship and creativity for many locals in San Luis Obispo over the years. Peter J. Steynberg opened the gallery in 1999 and has evolved the coffee shop into a space radiating life and supporting the community, according to manager Kalae Figueroa.
“Peter made it a place where students can study, professors can do lectures, people can meet their friends for cups of coffee and I think that really allows the community to use the space,” Figueroa said. “So I feel like allowing those things and not having a bias over what was here made it really more welcoming for a lot of people.”
But after almost 20 years, Peter Steynberg has stepped down and a transition in ownership has taken place. Former Steynberg Gallery will now be called The Four Cats. The five new owners look to “breathe new life into this space.”
Steynberg Gallery’s friendly ambiance has always attracted many locals, professors, workers and students alike.
“We always go for the homey, comfortable space, typically not over-crowded, and we can move the tables around, sit for a long time and just do our own thing,” geography professor Gregory Bohr said. “Basically, we just like that it has always [been] a friendly, neighborhood, non-chain, regular-people sort of place.”
The comfort of the coffee shop even attracted the new owners. One of the new owners, Art Tabuenca, has worked down the street for 10 years and Steynberg Gallery quickly became his ritualistic coffee shop.
“This coffee shop is a more progressive space that has a lot of history. It’s just kind of this incubator of ideas and alchemy of food and music and art,” Tabuenca said. “I think it is a very unique place because it brings together music and culture with a clientele that is more artsy.”
Regulars are accustomed to Peter Steynberg and everything he brought to the coffee shop, but the owners of The Four Cats are not looking to make any big changes, but rather to enhance and fine-tune the service.
“I think we are just sort of keeping what Peter has been doing for the last 20 years going, just keeping the same vibe,” Tabuenca said. “It has got a certain culture and a certain feeling around it. We are going to be updating the cafe and a lot of the aspects here the next year, but it’s still [going to] be coffee and it’s still gonna be pastries.”
So what is up with the name, The Four Cats? The name was inspired by a famous, artistic restaurant, Els Quatre Gats, in Barcelona, Spain, where musicians, architects and intellectuals got together and shared ideas. Tabuenca is of Spanish descent and lived in Spain for six months last year with his family. As he saw similarities in quirkiness and creativity between the restaurant in Barcelona and the San Luis Obispo coffee shop, he saw the name as a perfect fit.
Spanish artist Ramon Casas painted a piece for the interior of Els Quatre Gats depicting him and one of the promoters on a tandem bike with an inscription saying, “To ride a bike. You can’t go with your bike straight.”
“See, that is kind of our thing here, you can’t really move slow or lie forward. You have to push. You can’t just stay stuck, you have to look forward, you have to anticipate and embrace the future, which is what I think this place does,” Tabuenca said.