Capitol Hill food+drink | Squirrel Chops cafe+salon plans summer opening in the Central District

An image of a barbershop currently tops the Wikipedia entry for “third place” — the term given to social gathering spaces beyond the workplace and home. Throw in a cafe and you have a Capitol Hill couple’s dream business now becoming a reality on the corner of 22nd and Union.

Squirrel Chops will be two parts cafe, one part salon when it opens this summer in a narrow corner space at The Central, a recently completed 92-unit mixed-used building on the southwest corner of 23rd and Union.

“We’re all about community and building community, and I thought why don’t we just do a place that does that,” said Shirley Henderson, a former barista who is running the cafe side of the business. “We wanted to start making that our business instead of our hobbies and past time.”

The Central at 23rd and Union.

The Central at 23rd and Union.

Henderson’s partner Sharon Blyth-Moss will head up the two-chair salon after spending years working in other salons around town. And yes, the owner have a plan for preventing clippings landing in your latte — a sliding door between the two spaces.

The couple signed their lease Monday for the 800-square-foot space and hope to open by August. Squirrel Chops (derived from Henderson’s childhood nickname) will serve as the name for both sides of the business. Plans for the 15 to 20 seat coffee shop also include outdoor seating, beer and wine at the bar, and a section of baked goods and sandwiches.

Henderson and her wife have long been involved with Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ community, but as many have moved south chasing cheaper rents, she said the Central District has increasingly felt like home. “The Central District has such an awesome rich history and diversity. That means a lot to us being women starting a business who are LGBTQ,” she said.

Squirrel Chops will also share a special connection with its next-door neighbors, the soon-to-open electric bike and supply store Electric Lady: Owner Alex Kostelnik built his very first bike at 20/20 Cycle for Henderson.

When it opens this summer, Squirrel Chops will have avoided most of the turmoil experienced by other Central District businesses during the overhaul of the 23rd Avenue corridor. For months, officials said the City had no legal avenue to directly assist 23rd Ave owners who said road and sidewalk construction threatened to close down several businesses. In February the City relented when Mayor Ed Murray announced the creation of a $650,000+ business stabilization fund. Still, it won’t be an easy handout.

Squirrel Chops also extends the flurry of hair business activity around Capitol Hill this year to the CD. The Scotch Pine barbershop kicked off 2016 with a move from Lower Queen Anne to 11th Ave’s Chophouse Row. While they didn’t bring the booze from LQA, free beer will be part of Portland-based Bishops Barbershop when it opens inside 12th and Pike’s recently completed Beryl Apartments building. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill-born Bang Salon is in the midst of opening its third location in South Lake Union.

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 1.36.21 PMNope, Dave Meinert and Marcus Charles aren’t teaming up to take over the Showbox Market. But a concession services company owned by the duo from back in their Capitol Hill Block Party days is taking over the Showbox bars for AEG Live, Meinert tells CHS. “Instead of it being a big corporate thing, our vibe is to make the bars at the Showboxes more like they were,” Meinert said. The result? Likely stiffer drinks and a local company beating out Wolgang Puck for the contract.
  • 12805959_1220946921253601_429891176309945844_nSun Liquor’s distillerythe first distillery to do (legal) business on Capitol Hill since before Prohibition — celebrates five years this weekend… and the opening of its new bottle shop:
    In addition to having a party at Sun Liquor Distillery with drink & food specials, a raffle (win a bottle of this years eggnog!) to celebrate our 5th Anniversary, this Sunday we will also be officially opening the Sun Liquor Bottle Shop! The Bottle Shop is right next door to the bar at 516 E Pike St. Drop by to check it out before heading to the bar for cocktails!
  • Also celebrating this week: Kessler’s (2015)
  • Pizza pizza pizza. Italian Family Pizza is coming to First Hill. Dino’s Tomato Pieat E Olive Way and Denny — now open. Across the street? Even Amante’s is upgrading.
  • Coming from the Wandering Goose’s Heather Earnhardt:

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11 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Squirrel Chops cafe+salon plans summer opening in the Central District

  1. I’m somewhat skeptical. There is already a high-end salon (Swing) 2 blocks away on Union right next to Cortona, a well-established cafe/coffee shop that has a pretty solid neighborhood clientele. Going West on Union, you’ve also got Katy’s, another coffee shop that’s been around for awhile.

    Maybe they’ll focus more on their bar/sandwiches side of things, but I’m disappointed that their concept is just duplicating businesses that are already in the neighborhood.

    • They’re right on 2 busy bus lines, diagonally across the street from busy Uncle Ike’s, and right in the middle of a big intersection that now has very little food service or coffee (except the kiosk in the Post Office parking lot, which is very easy to miss). Original? No. But since when does a business have to be original to succeed? How many coffee shops are there on Capitol Hill, even without food? My guess is there’s a great probability they’ll do fine– without siphoning off business from either Katy’s or Cortona.

    • That intersection is going to be a major transit point, any coffee shop there is going to clean up. Nobody living in that intersection (of which there will be a minimum of 600 new residents in the next four years if you do the math) is going to walk three blocks either way to Cortona or Katy’s (especially if they don’t stop burning their shots) when there’s one right across from the bus stop that goes straight downtown.

  2. Staying conscious and locating yourself as a white person in a racial diverse neighborhood, amidst a tsunami of gentrification, can be a challenge. I’m hopeful there’s a robust plan to stay active in the community and to outreach with neighbors. I know free “cuts for kids,” specifically for poor families, are always needed and appreciated. Looking forward to a positive and supportive relationship between these businesses and the local communities of color.

    • Does Earl’s Cut’s and Styles at 23rd and Union offer free cuts for kids? They’ve been in business since 1992.

      Their website says kid cuts cost $10.

    • Don’t know what Earl’s is doing, or their barbers. Barbers I’ve known do work with local schools and organizations to offer free haircuts to students. Also, sounds like Earl’s has been there for a while. My point, in light of the current deluge of gentrification in the area, it’d be great for white owned businesses to build upon and nurture the “diversity” in the CD. Did that not come through? Do you disagree?

    • Seems like a nice idea. Maybe they can start a free cuts program using the high profile opening of that Central apartments building to get attention.

  3. Darn! Ive been living in the area for five years and wish there were more food places nearby. Medmix was great while it lasted, and the Ethiopian place has excellent food, but that’s about it unless you walk to Ezells or dine in at neighbor lady. Hopeful that future retail spaces in the other new 23rd and union bldgs brings more diverse businesses to the area, not just more coffee shops.

    • You’re forgetting the Twilight Exit, Lotus Thai, all the Ethiopian places, Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, The BBQ Pit…

    • All of those are good but all of them are on Cherry, not Union. Too far to walk to eat if someone doesn’t have a car.