For many Davisites, Delta of Venus has possessed an undeniably homey quality ever since its doors opened in 1993. A bookshelf ruled by the ‘take a penny leave a penny’ mantra frames a fireplace inside, featuring titles such as Pony Pals and Much Ado About Nothing. A group of gray-haired men and women sit in the next room belting out Irish folk songs. The smell of Caribbean food envelops its interior.
From the people, to the food, to the music, the Delta of Venus coffee shop and study hangout is a place a lot of Davis residents find themselves wanting to be.
“It makes them feel as comfortable as they are when they’re at home,” said Lee Walthall, the owner of Delta of Venus since 2001.
Sitting at a table at Delta, customers will see Walthall running in and out of its doors, waving hello to the regulars who have been coming here almost as long as he has, washing a couple dishes and then disappearing once again into the abyss of his day-to-day routine.
“Never have I seen any sort of evidence that I should be doing something else with my life,” Walthall said.
Included in Walthall’s sometimes tedious day-to-day is the struggle of finding balance between change and maintenance. He knows that the patrons of Delta come here because of what Delta has always been, so he feels it is not in his best interest to change that. To Walthall, however, it is not entirely his decision to make.
Walthall does not simply view Delta as his business, but rather he thinks of it as his “wife” or “partner.” When talking about changes Delta has made and will continue to make in the future, he said that it isn’t so much his ideas that are being propelled forward, but rather it is the energy of Delta that’s pushing him.
“There’s obviously something much bigger here than just me. The Delta has her own vibe to her,” Walthall said. “I’m interested in her becoming everything that she’s trying to become and helping her, more than me dictating her life.”
Everything has changed and nothing has changed since Delta opened its doors in 1993 at the hands of Audrey Park and Ruth Fankushen, Walthall said.
The menu isn’t the same anymore — now they serve Hot and Sour Tempeh and Plum Baked Chicken, in addition to a selection of sandwiches and brunch items — some of the furniture is probably not the same and there are new customers everyday. These changes, however, haven’t altered the essence of Delta.
“The general vibe of the Delta is basically the same,” Walthall said.
Before buying Delta in 2001, Walthall actually applied and was rejected for a job there — a fact Walthall described as “poetic.”
Walthall was prompted to purchase Delta because “you reach a certain point in your life when you want to have something,” he said. For Walthall, Delta was that something.
Before Walthall purchased Delta, he worked in the local music scene, playing shows and recording. Through Walthall’s own connections to the Davis music scene, Delta became closely involved with local bands and KDVS’ shows, which have been taking place for some 40 years, said KDVS general manager Neil Ruud, a senior political science major.
The KDVS-Delta of Venus bond has turned into a symbiotic relationship. KDVS shows bring in clientele; Delta of Venus allows artists a place to exhibit their work.
“Without Delta, KDVS wouldn’t be what it is,” Ruud said.
KDVS frequently holds both live shows and DJ dance parties at many venues in Davis including the Delta of Venus, arguably one of the most popular of these destinations.
“They’re near campus and they’re willing to have dance parties and shows. It’s a good way to interface with people,” Ruud said.
It seems that like Walthall himself, along with Ruud, who has been coming to Delta since he was nine years old while his brother worked there, it is not possible to simply be an occasional patron of Delta. You’re either a regular or you’re an outsider, a thought echoed by many of the customers.
“A lot of people come not for a specific thing, but to be themselves and be in a place where they can be themselves,” Walthall said.
Delta was the first place Stephanie Villas, now a Delta employee, visited when she moved to Davis, and she quickly fell in love with it.
“The customers at Delta are a really diverse group of people,” Villas said. “They are so comfortable with each other.”
And Walthall confirmed that yes, Delta of Venus really is named after The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin’s erotic novel, and that he really loves the name.
“The name is powerful because it is great words. It has to do with the literature about women,” Walthall said. “The feminine qualities about the Delta are part of what make it so powerful.”
CHRISTINA NOVAKOV-RITCHEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.