A year ago the over 30 year old Café 212 Pier was a hangout for the homeless and people who exploited the coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi. Now, under the management of new owner Roopinder Bhullar, it is home to art shows and poetry readings.

“It took almost a year to get it like this,” Bhullar said. “But I’ve cleaned it up. I’ve painted it, cleaned it. And that was so important because a lot of people who enjoyed it had stopped coming because they said it was unhygienic. But now it’s clean and we have an A rating.”

Bhullar put in the time and effort to overhaul the location because she wanted it to gain a reputation as an event café. And so far she’s been successful in that endeavor, as the café has not only held artistic events, but also Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a Raymond Chandler book club and allows people to reserve their upstairs tables for study groups and conferences.

“I wanted to focus on it is a community café, a small business,” she said. “I wanted people to recognize that and want to patronize us for that reason.”

Bhullar, a London native who used to be a health and fitness instructor, a food journalist and grew up in a family that really appreciated a good meal, always wanted to own a café in a beach town. And when she found Café 212 Pier she knew it was a good fit.

“Santa Monica is very expensive,” she said. “And I found this space and I said, ‘This I can work with.’”

Though Bhullar did spend a lot of time creating a new atmosphere in the café, she did not lose focus when it came to the most important aspect of the business: the food and coffee.

“We try and make sure our food is really good and fresh and wholesome,” Bhullar said. “I believe food is medicine. And I wanted to have a café where we could cook fresh every day.”

The café’s menu includes items like Nutella French toast, rose smoothies, veggie pesto pasta, cheese quesadillas and an Indian platter.

Bhullar is also quick to boast about their coffee, which is made exclusively for Café 212 Pier by a small roaster in Orange County.

“It is excellent and smooth, and we even sell the coffee beans.”

Bhullar has tried to get the word out that the café has changed by offering “Loyal Piertons” loyalty card, focusing more on social media and offering discounts.

And though Bhullar is competing with both large chains and other small cafés, the fight over customers is not a real concern of hers.

“We offer a great product for a very good price in a place like Santa Monica. And I challenge you to come and see it is a comfortable place to be and I challenge people who go to Starbucks or wherever to see that we are better,” Bhullar said.

“We serve good food and coffee and have a comfortable environment. We are a place for anyone and everyone.”

Café 212 Pier is located at 212 Pier Ave.

jennifer@www.smdp.com