Jack and Margaret Chang are closing their beloved KK Cafe on January 13th, after more than 24 years near the corner of Haight and Divisadero. The decision to end their long-standing tenure in the neighborhood is an all-too familiar story involving rising rents and building upgrade costs imposed by their landlord, Greystone Properties.
While Margaret was frustrated by a series of rent hikes and increasing costs, she told Hoodline she'd prefer to focus on the future, especially as it pertains to KK Cafe's famous nut milk product.
In case you’re not familiar with the local mainstay, KK is more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich on the way to work. It’s the only place where you can score some of Jack’s famous peanut milk
, a healthful vegan beverage with a bit of a cult following around town and beyond.
Jack came up with the idea in 1999. A chronic gum disease prevented him from eating solid foods, and he began boiling peanuts to make a liquid form he could eat. The results tasted terrible at first, but he kept experimenting with the concoction until he came up with a version that was sweet and creamy. So the Changs began bottling and selling the recipe at KK, and its popularity grew. Patients at nearby hospitals started stopping by, saying that the milk was helping them to gain energy, ease digestion and combat other side effects from the treatments they were receiving.
If you go by the store today, you'll see dozens of glowing personal testimonials from long-time customers on the walls, describing how the peanut milk helped them deal with cancer chemotherapy, HIV drug cocktails, eczema, psoriasis and much else.
"I don't want give up, so I'm going to keep selling peanut milk," Margaret tells us, explaining that she and Jack are too close to retirement to seek a new location for the cafe. They've also considered moving back to Taiwan, where they were born.
But first, they're making a go of the peanut milk business here. They're enlisting their son Jon, and asking their many customers in the neighborhood, at nearby hospitals, and around the world to stay in touch as they make plans to distribute their signature beverage.
To get involved, call them at (415) 845-6936 or email them at Jonchangster (at) att (dot) net to start placing orders. Distribution will begin after the store shuts down. Until then, you can pick up peanut milk in its original, chocolate, banana or strawberry flavors at 252 Divisadero St., just north of Haight.
Thanks to tipsters Katrina, Colleen, Marilyn S., White M. and Kevin M.