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The latest from the archives: Do-Gooders, Key Players & Game Changers. Check out the team behind some of Somerville’s favorite hot posts and hangouts, Tucker Lewis and Jen Park, owners of Diesel Cafe, Forge Baking Co. and Bloc 11 Cafe.
Tucker Lewis and Jen Park met more than 20 years ago when they were working at the now-closed Herrell’s Ice Cream in Harvard Square. They shared an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to start their own scoop shop. However, concerned that the seasonal ice cream biz was too risky for first-time business owners, they opted instead to open a coffee shop with year-round appeal.
Lewis and Park’s Diesel Cafe welcomed its first customers in 1999. Nine years later, they launched Bloc 11 in Union Square, and Forge Baking Company on Somerville Avenue opened its doors in 2014. From coffee to baked goods to lunch fare, all three locations have become bustling hubs of activity, attracting the work-from-home set, families balancing babies and sandwiches, friends sharing coffee cakes and solo residents taking it all in. Their eateries collaborate whenever possible; all breads and pastries are baked at Forge, the shops have similar coffee programs and Lewis and Park host cross-staff trainings for their more than 100 employees—but the locations have their own identities.
“Each store—as a result of being in a different community—kind of reflects that neighborhood,” Park says. At Diesel, which draws from a young, professional customer base, seats with proximity to outlets are stalked (and pounced upon) by customers clutching laptops. Outdoor seating at Bloc 11 accommodates big groups of friends and families gathering for weekend brunch. And though it’s a newer spot, customers already know to squeeze in, elbow-to-elbow, and share tables at Forge during peak hours. In this way, Lewis and Park are quite literally bringing residents closer together. With each new location, they’ve been at the forefront of Somerville’s neighborhood and community building.
No longer newcomers to the restaurant industry, the duo is finally ready to take on their white whale. This summer, right next door to Forge Baking Company, you can visit the brand-new Forge Ice Cream Bar.