Victrola’s downtown cafe brings along Capitol Hill roots (and opportunity to make some big new giant retailer friends)

Born in 2000 on 15th Ave E, Victrola has survived neighboring competitive corporate mimicry — remember 15th Ave Coffee & Tea? — and downright overwhelming investment on a global scale. This week, the small chain of cafes has expanded into new Seattle territory directly in the maw of massive brands downtown at 3rd and Pine — and it has made some surprising alliances along the way.

Wednesday, Victrola opened its new cafe inside the Macy’s building, well off Capitol Hill.

Victrola’s Andrew Wheeler tells CHS one of the 15th Ave cafe’s earliest customers called that shop “the living room of the neighborhood.” It’s an ideal Victrola hopes to carry downtown.

“As we thought about, ok, we’re going to come downtown Seattle, and it’s going to be crazy and this is going to be one of the most walked-past corners in the city,” Wheeler says, “the question was how to bring the neighborhood feel into the downtown area.”

3rd and Pine doesn’t have the best reputation — especially past midnight. But on a bright spring morning, it’s full of city energy — some negative, plenty positive. No matter how you judge it, it’s a busy place.

For the typically laid back Victrola, the cafe is an investment in a new effort at growth. Only the fourth of the Victrola cafes in its 18 years, the 3rd and Pine shop is opening doors to new relationships for the business. While Macy’s is a big part of Seattle’s retail past, above the store and the new Victrola, Amazon leases six floors of office space for the city’s retail present. Wheeler says that there is a counterpart to the new street level presence — up above, Victrola will serve Amazon workers from an internal, employee-only cafe. And, Wheeler said, the project is opening up another opportunity for Victrola with a similar cafe inside the company’s South Lake Union campus.

“We have a good relationship with Amazon. They’re a massive company — we’re almost like their opposite,” Wheeler says.

The new ventures mark a continuing period of change for Victrola. Earlier this year, the company moved its roasting operations off E Pike and expanded its production in Lynnwood. Victrola was acquired by Dan Ollis and his Whidbey Coffee company in 2008 from founders Chris Sharp and Jen Strongin. It now employs around 35 baristas across its locations.

Wheeler says the newest step forward for Victrola is “a grand experiment” but also grounded in the  “craft, art, and authenticity” of the coffee company.

“We want to bring our coffee here,” Wheeler says. “Let’s value what we do. Value what we’re drinking.”

Victrola’s new 3rd and Pine location is open weekdays 6 AM to 7 PM and weekends from 7 AM to 7 PM. You can learn more at victrolacoffee.com.

With reporting and photography by Alex Garland


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