Capitol Hill food+drink | Volunteer Park Cafe settles in at 17th and Galer

Ericka Burke is planning to spruce up the 109-year-old building the VPC calls home (Images: CHS)

Ericka Burke is planning to spruce up the 109-year-old building the VPC calls home (Images: CHS)

A few years back,Volunteer Park Cafe went through the sometimes painful process of getting to know your neighbors. With that issue fully settled and one partner moved-on to a new project, VPC’s Ericka Burke tells CHS she is ready to settle in and get to work sprucing up the 1904 grocery and cafe space smack in the middle of its 17th and Galer residential neighborhood.

The Volunteer Park Grocery, circa 1938 (Image: Puget Sound Regional Archives)

The Volunteer Park Grocery, circa 1938 (Image: Puget Sound Regional Archives)

“I own the building,” Burke said of her big purchase made final earlier this spring. “I’m taking total pride of ownership.”

According to King County records, Burke acquired the 1904-built, 2,800 square-foot building for $680,000 from its long-time owner in March. She is now planning additional investment to rehabilitate the longtime grocery and cafe spot’s worn exterior.

“I did a lot of driving around the neighborhood,” she says of her quest for a palette for the overhaul that will fit in with the mix found in the neighborhood’s well-preserved single-family homes and be faithful to the location’s history. “Obviously, I have a limited budget but I want it to be at the level of the rest of the neighborhood.”

IMG_9833 IMG_9830 IMG_9831Burke said this summer will also be about digging in — further, deeper, better — on the cafe’s backyard and street-side gardens where she hopes to grown an even greater percentage of the herbs and greens used at the cafe. At one time, she had hoped to host outdoor diners in the backyard space.

Her new world is about being a part of the neighborhood.

“How awesome is it that we have this amazing garden,” she said. “I have no regrets. I have this great place to have a garden.”

She hopes to see the seasonality of the increased green-thumb effort further shape the cafe’s evolving dinner offerings.

Rather than creating a bad taste in her mouth anytime a person says “community,” the experience finding a path that will work for a unique business like the cafe in the midst of a residential neighborhood has also given Burke a unique skill set — one she says she might grow to leverage again in the future. “I would love to create another neighborhood space like this,” she said.

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Capitol Hill kids at the old market (Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

Capitol Hill kids at the old market (Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

For Burke, purchasing the property at 17th and Galer and launching the rehabilitation is part of a celebration after the challenging years when earlier plans for growing the business were curtailed and scaled back and her collaborator at VPC, baker Heather Earnhardt, left to start The Wandering Goose on 15th Ave E.

“I think settling in is a great way to put it,” she said. “It’s a celebration of making it.”

You can learn more about what’s next and follow the changes at alwaysfreshgoodness.com.

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A Celebration, originally uploaded by sahafoto.

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