When walking on Monterey Street, just outside of Downtown San Luis Obispo, you might see a sign that states, “coffee and dogs make the world go round”. Looking directly to your right, you might notice the signs lead to a coffee shop decorated with rainbow pride flags, a patio usually bustling with patrons and their dogs, and their unmissable logo — a skeleton pirate sailing a boat.
This coffee shop is Skipper’s Brew, which Sheri Rubino and Karen Pike brought to San Luis Obispo in February of 2021 after opening the first Skipper’s location in Morro Bay in 2018. The transparency of the clear windows covering the building and the large patio for socializing and enjoying coffee metaphorically represents how open the shop’s owners are about helping the LGBTQ+ community and to hosting their customers’ pets.
“Once we knew that we were going to be in SLO, we knew that we were going to reach out and be a safe space,” said Pike.
To provide a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, Pike and Rubino have partnered with the Gala Center, Queer SLO and the Cal Poly Pride Center. They have also held events at Skipper’s, such as drag shows, drag queen trivia, bingo and pride celebrations, where they donated the proceeds from what was sold at the events to local LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations.
“We did a fundraiser for the [Gala Center] when their sign was vandalized,” said Rubino. “We were able to raise $1,800 for them to buy a new sign and additional security.”
Rubino and Pike’s kindness does not go unnoticed in the community.
“Our first week was supposed to be a soft launch, but since we aligned with the Gala Center, we had a full house,” said Rubino. “We also have customers that come every weekend from Santa Maria for the Gala Center. It is nothing short of amazing.”
Despite the good that Rubino and Pike have already done throughout their seven months in SLO, they have also faced hate and adversity.
“We used to do little afternoon drag shows out here, and [they] got bigger than we expected to get,” said Pike. “We had a few issues with noise complaints, but mostly, they were about it being a gay event. We had some people who had an issue with that, so they complained to the landlord.”
These complaints are changing the nature of Skippers’ drag shows but are not stopping them altogether.
“We are trying to source out an external venue if we are going to sponsor drag shows, but everything will be on a smaller scale inside the shop,” said Rubino.
Alongside helping the LGBTQ+ community, Pike and Rubino also help out with philanthropic causes involving shelter pets, including Woods Humane Society and Vanderpups, which are the two locations where they adopted their rescue dogs, and Sam and Nala.
In regards to holding events that celebrate pets, Rubino and Pike hosted a Halloween pet costume contest in October and plan to begin doing more and different types of parties in the future. In the meantime, they celebrate their costumers’ pets every day by offering free dog treats and “puppuccinos” — which is a small cup of whipped cream for pups — and by allowing patrons to bring their dogs into the shop. These practices were inspired by the shop dog, Izzy, that they used to have in their Morro Bay location.
As for the SLO location, Rubino said that “pretty much every dog that comes into the shop is [their] mascot.”
Eden-Rose Baker is a journalism major and the assistant content director for KCPR. Josie Doan is an art and design major and a designer for KCPR.