Sourcing local assistance for the Seattle Central District

By Renee Diaz and Hunter Bos, For the Seattle psychic

A worn mural covers the exterior brick wall of a local pub, anchoring the long row of businesses and homes lining several blocks of Cherry Street from 23rd to 30th Avenues. The row is capped at the end by a Latino-owned bakery, and across the street is a black-owned cafe with a bright orange door.

Amid changing demographics and competition from large commercial chains, small businesses in this block are finding ways to stay together, working together to ensure that money flows through the neighborhood and a sense of community supports everyone. .

Central Cafe and Juice Bar is a black-owned store on Cherry Street that sits between the Garfield Community Center and a long row of businesses owned by people of color.

The cafe has become something of a local hub, showcasing the work of local artists, collecting school supplies for students in the area, and hosting regular community events, such as pop-up art markets.

“I love the community,” said Bridgette Johnson, owner of Central Cafe and Juice Bar. “I just remember the little little shops, and you know, you go to the corner store, they know you, they know your family, and that’s the kind of thing I want for my coffee.”

A calendar listing the cafe’s daily events hangs right inside the door next to a community board, with leaflets, maps, and brochures brought in by local patrons to advertise events in the area. Getting involved, Johnson explained, is as easy as reaching out and talking to people.

“It’s not really about the money,” Johnson said. “I want the atmosphere, I want the culture, the fun of doing everything else.”

The pandemic, Johnson explained, has taken a toll on many small businesses in the region. She lost the interior seating options and day-to-day business of nearby Garfield High School. But pandemic conditions have also prompted her to diversify her product sources by purchasing goods from other small vendors nearby.

Johnson buys wholesale for his coffee at a discounted rate from Golden Wheat Bakery, a Latino-owned bakery serving bread, pastries, and many Latinx foods, a few blocks east.

Golden Wheat Bakery opened its Cherry Street store in 2013 and, after some success, opened a second store on 31st Avenue. Labor shortages during the pandemic forced owners to close the second location.

“A lot of people from the community showed up for us,” said Angel Diaz, son of the owner of Golden Wheat Bakery. “When the pandemic started, people would buy gift cards and just give them to their friends like, ‘Hey, go shopping here, have coffee here; it is a very good place.

Wholesale, Diaz explained, is a big part of Golden Wheat Bakery’s business. Before the pandemic, much of that business had come from Pike Place Market shoppers, but since the start of the pandemic, nearly 70 percent of that business had been lost.

Golden Wheat Bakery also sells pastries at Melo Cafe, a black woman-owned juice cafe and bar located a few blocks north of Cherry Street on 25th Avenue. While primarily a juice and waffle bar, Melo Cafe also offers coffee from Boon Boona Coffee, an African roaster from Renton.

“Our philosophy of just mutual support is really important to us,” said Ambrosia Austin, co-founder of The Melo Cafe. “And the idea that we go to other cafes or other juice shops, and that we appreciate their products and think it’s important to be involved.”

For his restaurant wares and sandwich art, Austin showcases creations by local artist and teacher Kamyar Mohsenin.

Next to the Melo Cafe is Shikorina Pastries, a pastry shop that opened in 2020.

With the region’s demographics shifting in favor of those with higher incomes, Shikorina Pastries founder and pastry chef Hana Yohannes, who offers a sliding-scale pay option for low-income customers, said gentrification had put a lot of financial pressure on the region.

“I didn’t feel any pressure at the start,” Yohannes said. “But with the new buildings there are new business ventures and cafes. A new population of rich and whites settling in raises the cost of living for homes and businesses. “

To combat this, Yohannes finds it essential to maintain good relationships with his fellow small business owners by registering regularly via SMS, donating to their fundraising platforms, visiting their storefronts, referring clients to them. and, most importantly, by buying local whenever possible.

“It supports both of our businesses,” Yohannes said. “So we are constantly checking in with each other to see how we can support each other. “

The presence of department stores such as the PCC Community Market nearby has put pressure on Golden Wheat Bakery’s business in recent years. It can be a bit of a double-edged sword, Diaz explained, because companies that choose not to partner with PCC may lose sales there, but those that do may lose revenue as the market takes a hit. portion of the profits from each sale.

“I’m not saying they’re bad,” Diaz said. “It’s a good way to get yourself known, to get your brand known, but generally people shop there instead of coming to your real storefront. “

Small business owners are at the forefront of the changes taking place in the neighborhood.

“One thing that saddens me is that a lot of these old buildings are demolished for these Skyrise apartments. They’re trying to drive out the old people, ”Johnson said.

Small businesses are a mainstay of the local community, Johnson explained, so the best thing for everyone is to keep buying local. She wants everyone to be careful and intentional about where they put their money. “Like I said, Walmart, Starbucks, they’ll always be there, but if you want your local coffee, your local ice cream. If you want them to come out, you have to support them.

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