The baby blue carpet has come up to reveal hardwood floors, the white office ceiling has been removed and paint has been stripped from the high windows. And, most recently, the soon-to-open Arabica Lounge logo has gone up on a previously blank wall inside.
People have been asking Arabica owner Jojo Corväiá what the space is going to be after undergoing such dramatic renovations.
“I tell them, it’s gonna be a girl,” he said.
Corväiá migrated to Seattle from Miami in 2008.
“As soon as I stepped out of the airplane, I felt like this was home,” said Corväiá.
Miami had no independent coffee shops and he was excited to be in Seattle where coffee was such an essential part of the culture. Corväiá wanted in on it but he knew he would have to bring something unique to the table to be successful. The idea took a full year to take shape.
“I thought, why don’t I just put everything I like together?” he said. “The only thing that’s missing is my dog.”
Arabica will combine simple food, music, good beverages (the lounge will serve coffee and tea as well as beer and wine) and personal interaction with people. There are no large tables at Arabica. They are all either coffee tables or end tables set to the side of cushy chairs and couches. Corväiá said he wanted the lounge to be a place to come for communal eating and drinking, not a place people come to be to isolate themselves. The focus is on the people in front of and around you, though the shop still has wifi for patrons looking for a place to bring their laptops.
Even the front counter is said to offer proof of Corväiá’s commitment to openness and real social interaction. The opening next to the cash register is wide, two people could comfortably pass each other in it, because he wanted his baristas to feel a connection to the customers as well. He is ultimately trying to create a place where both his employees and customers will enjoy spending time.
“When we do something we enjoy, time takes on an entirely different dimension,” he said.
As suggested by the name, Arabica will only offer arabica beans provided by Stumptown, local brews and simple, high quality finger foods.
For the menu, Corväiá took a cue from some of his favorite European cafes. All of the edibles will be finger foods but not tapas. These are good, simple foods “combined in nice ways.” One of the lounge’s principle sandwiches will be a brie and honey sandwich on artisan bread. It will also offer cheese and fruit plates, prosciutto, pastries warmed to crispy perfection in an oven Corväiá purchased for just that task and his take on the Egyptian dish dükkah, a mix of crushed hazelnuts and spices eaten with bread dipped in olive oil.
But Corväiá says this is neither a bar, a coffee shop nor a restaurant. Above all, Arabica will be “a hanging out place” where people can relax.
“And if you fall asleep in that chair, it’s totally cool,” he said.
Arabica aims to open by the end of August but Corväiá has a thing for details, so he says it will open when he is ready. The August opening will be a soft opening with a grand opening planned for mid to late September.