Personal branding, the idea of telling your own story to make yourself or your product memorable and “sticky” in the eyes of the consumer, can be an overwhelming process. Transitioning from a food truck business to a brick and mortar restaurant, business partners Vita Simone and Carmen Anderson began work on the visual elements of the space as soon as they procured a location more than two and a half years ago. “[The food truck] was called Sassafras, after my grandma’s nickname for me,” said Simone. “The name just had too many ‘s’s’; it got annoying when calling in orders and spelling out the name all the time.” A rebrand for the new spot was in order.
Stick with your heritage.
Simone and Anderson, friends and roommates from their days at UC Berkeley, built their original food truck business, Sassafras, on the idea that what they enjoyed eating, others would enjoy eating. That meant their brand story at Copper Spoon focuses around Simone’s Greek heritage (she grew up there) and Copper Spoon’s California location. They began brainstorming and noodling around with iconic images from California or Greece. Many were not right. “We started out with a spoon and a poppy around it,” said Simone, who originally wanted to incorporate the state flower into the brand design. That idea was too literal for the sassy yet home-style food business. “Poppies are everywhere in California,” she said. “It was not original enough for us. While driving home from a bartending gig one morning at 3 a.m., a lightning bolt struck. “In Greece, artichokes grow wild. You see them everywhere in spring,” said Simone. Inspired, she started drawing.
Make it personal.
The spoon, this time wrought from copper, anchored the drawing. An artichoke rested on the spoon. A honeybee was nestled inside the artichoke. Metaphors practically leap from the image. According to Simone, the spoon is a metaphor for tasting the heirloom recipes from her and Anderson’s background, as well as those of chef Andre Hall. California grows almost the entire U.S. supply of artichokes and the vegetable has served as a symbol of California cuisine. Perfect for their NorCal location. The honeybee tied it all together. “I started thinking about honeybees and how integral they are to the food supply,” Simone said. “The bee creates conversation though meaning. We want to start a conversation about bringing back the bees. We don’t see bees everywhere anymore in the same way as you see poppies [in spring],” she said.
Anchor your look with color.
Copper’s patina changes over time, from pinkish red to mellow, pale blue and Simone found ways to build this natural characteristic into her brand identity. The blue of aged copper is the shade that defines Copper Spoon’s brand design. The tables on the bar side of the restaurant have copper tops. Bar stools are a soft copper color and copper pots hold succulents on table tops. “Copper is a good metaphor for Oakland and how diverse it is — it always has deep roots, but there is a great patina that is always changing,” she said.
But copper could not carry the entire restaurant. Keeping an eye on the same natural elements that define the brand logo, Simone looked to bring the same homespun ideas to Copper Spoon’s look and feel. The various shades of blue that provide iconic imagery for the Greek Islands would also become an important component of Copper Spoon. Blue elements run throughout the bar and restaurant. A long light coil snakes under the bar top, casting a deep blue light on the blue paint beneath. Blue fabric, hand-dyed by Anderson’s mom, defines the wall across from the bar. Blue paint frames the adjoining rooms and, in the restaurant, aqua blue banquettes provide seating for diners, among other blue elements. “The idea is to have a river running through it,” said Simone. “The colors of blue and green make everyone feel good and at peace.”
Don’t forget balance.
Simone’s goal for anyone who walks into Copper Spoon is to feel good about being and eating there. “When you think of the best food you’ve ever eaten, it is usually based on what someone cooked for you from their garden or a family recipe. When you have a good dish, it is balanced.” At Copper Spoon, that balance is evidenced throughout the restaurant and bar, all the way through to the brand design. With a sense of personal history threaded through the food as much as through the brand design, the message is clear: Copper Spoon is a welcoming place, a place to eat well, and, perhaps, even a place to spark a conversation about the future of food.
Photo credits: Copper Spoon (top and middle); Daniel Tellas (lower).