Capitol Hill will soon play host to another coffee shop. However, this one’s a little different: Black Coffee Cooperative is looking to create one of the neighborhood’s first horizontally structured coffee shop.
“I used to want to start my own coffee shop as a business owner,” said Scott Davis, a local barista from Trabant Coffee who has worked in the coffee business for six or so years. The idea for Black Coffee Cooperative came to Davis after he started looking into creating his own business. ”When I learned what it means to start a business, I realized I didn’t want that — I wanted that social aspect and work aspect that you don’t get when you’re just a boss to somebody. I didn’t just want to lord over people. I don’t like the inherent hierarchy in owning a business.”
The shop will function like other worker owned co-ops — ownership will be split between the four or five main employees who will make decisions collectively on how the shop is run, hours, and wages. The space on 617 E. Pike St is being designed to function as an infoshop and DIY library as well.
“It’ll feature lots of how-to books, neat little gardening books, all things geared towards freeing yourself from the system,” said Stephen Hrivnak. Hrivnak is a barista at Arabica Lounge and was one of the first to respond to Davis’ call for co-owners.
“I was working at Arabica Lounge and saw a flier Scott put up about it. I was like ‘of course I’d rather work for myself than a boss,’” said Hrivnak.
The Cooperative will be brewing Kuma Coffee, an 80 percent direct trade Seattle based roast. They will be preparing pastries from wholesalers like Wayward and Hillside Quickies, as well as serving other eatables. The decision on whether or not to go full-vegan or part-vegan with the cuisine has yet to be reached.
Brandon Hynes, a local musician, jumped in on the idea being a co-owner with Davis and Hrivnak after hearing the plans. The three have been busy at work getting the space ready for the shop opening. The trio have yet to sign the lease on the space that used to house Kiss the Sky cafe — however the space has been taken off the market and a lease is currently being drafted for the upstart coffee shop, so the trio feel comfortable calling the space theirs.
“At this point we are just waiting for the lease to get drawn up. The plan is to open our doors a month after we sign the lease, which will hopefully be soon,” said Davis, who has already begun loading in espresso machines and equipment.
The Cooperative will share a space with a tobacco shop that also used operate in the same space as Kiss the Sky. The trio are planning on building a partition to help define the separate spaces better.
Part of the process of opening a cooperative coffee shop is, inevitably, getting the community in on it. This Sunday, Black Coffee Cooperative will be opening their doors for what they are calling a community “open house.”
“We are inviting people into the space to ask for their ideas. We really want to engage the broader community and open things up to them,” Davis said.
According to Davis, community members can look for three things from the meeting:
- Chilling out, drinking free coffee and beer, and good old fashioned meeting and greeting.
- A chance to hear what the Cooperative is all about, what’s already been done, and what is going to be done in the future.
- An opportunity to make suggestions.
“There’s huge room for volunteerism too,” David said, “people coming to help paint or put things together at work parties, people who want to schedule events hosted at the space, honestly anything is welcome.”
The trio is looking for at least one more person interesting in going in on the shop, capping it off at five or six co-owners max for now, with room for part time workers.
“Right now it’s all males, which I think is limiting. We’re looking for a female with good
organizational organizing skills who’s interested in jumping on board. We want a diverse representation, and I think having that female energy is really important,” said Hrivnak.
Davis and Hrivnak have one thing they want to make especially clear to the community.
“We’re not interested in only hiring or serving anarchists — we don’t claim to represent anarchy. It just makes sense to allude to it with our structure,” Davis said. While each co-owner of the space considers themselves an anarchist, they aren’t looking to force their views.
“What we really want is to set an example for people by saying ‘look, workers can run their own spaces’ and starting that conversation,” said Hrivnak. “There are many young people in Seattle who probably would love to not be working for a boss. We hope to spark more co-ops to open by showing people it’s possible. It would be beautiful to see others trying out horizontal models across the city.”