Appearing in many photos thanks to its strategic location next to the Paramount Theatre on Broadway, Elsa’s Coffee Shop evolved from a small stand to an Art Deco streamlined building. Its owner, Wayne Bernard Smith, worked in the insurance industry until the early 1930s when he and his wife Elsa decided to open the coffee shop. They would have several coffee shops in Oakland, but the namesake Elsa’s was the longest lasting until the late 1960s. The building was demolished by 1967 after construction of BART along Broadway. In 1970 they retired and moved back to his home state of Kansas.

Photos from the Paramount's archives over the decades show the evolution of the shop as well as the crowds standing in line for Paramount events, and can be dated by the marquees.

29 November 1934 showing a glimpse of the popcorn sign at Elsa's1937, Elsa's nestled next to the Paramount Paramount 23 May 1944, Elsa's with small awningParamount 27 June 1945, Elsa's with small awning Paramount 1 October 1958, Elsa's with art deco facadeParamount 13 February 1960, Elsa's and Size 9 Shop Paramount 13 February 1960 matinee, Elsa's next doorParamount 27 November 1960, Elsa's next door Paramount December 1961, Elsa's with new awning1951 Sanborn map showing Elsa's at 2029 Broadway

The interior photographs show Wayne cooking while Elsa served customers with classic coffee shop decor of the period. According to their granddaughter, Frank Sinatra used to drop by for coffee and pie.

Elsa's Coffee Shop, Wayne and Elsa Smith, courtesy of Susan SmithElsa's Coffee Shop, Elsa Smith, courtesy of Susan Smith

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