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Vivace general manager suffers brain injury in cycling crash — UPDATE

Fairbrother (Image: Vivace)

The coffee news pullers at Sprudge have alerted us to some tough news about Brian Fairbrother, general manager of Espresso Vivace and a 20-year veteran of the company. Here’s the latest update after Fairbrother was hospitalized in late August following a cycling crash:

After the doctors have analyzed all of Brian’s test results it has become apparent that he suffers from severe brain trauma due to lack of oxygen to his brain at the scene…

You can learn about Fairbrother and how to support his recovery here.

Here’s more about his long tenure with the company from Vivace’s site

King manager of 321 since before it was a store (he managed the cart at 301 Broadway before that), Brian is now the general manager of Espresso Vivace and also manages Alley 24. Besides being a very unique soul, he is our third leg on our decision stool. Brian, Geneva and I are the “board of directors” for Vivace Inc.. We know that if all three of us endorse a course of action for Espresso Vivace, it is the right course of action. He has earned our respect countless times. He was very crucial to holding the company together during our horrendous transition from carts to stores in 1992. And he has earned the respect of his staff for fair, but tough standards. It is Brian that is the principal architect for our customer service philosophy: compassion for the foibles of humanity. Brian practices his compassionate service, and considerable skills as a master barista and manages Alley 24 five days a week. He has been with us for twenty years. If a problem pops up on his watch he is fond of telling me “not to worry my artistic little head over it.” Thank you Brian

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64 thoughts on “Vivace general manager suffers brain injury in cycling crash — UPDATE

  1. He’d been such a regular — and welcome — part of my life for so long that Seattle without him just won’t be the same. This is a terrible loss.

  2. My heart sunk when i read this. Terrible news! When i moved here from NZ 12 years ago he was my first regular Barrista! He is a wonderful soul, and genuine guy. I really hope the community rallies around him. I would like to help wherever i can. Please keep me posted!

  3. I have know Brian for 20 and more. He is one the first beautiful spirited gay guys to do the old dances, tall, charming and rhythmic and handsome, something like belly dancing, with his personal magical flair.

    One hell of a nice guy, activist, artist and much more, more …

    Looking back and forward, this is one hell of a loss. To his many Seattle friends and family I can only say wipe away the tears and rejoice that you knew a choice and ancient spirit. Those thoughts and memories indeed transcend this moment.

    xoxoxo George B.

  4. Seem to be reading about so many terrible bike crashes lately. At what point does this city get serious about bike lanes and protecting cyclists?! Just awful that something so healthy and awesome can turn tragic so quickly. Peace to this gentleman, his family and friends.

  5. this is really unfortunate, I wonder if he was wearing a helmet though? So often, I see cyclists around town forgoing a helmet for fashion/comfort/et cetera. While I’m not suggesting that it’s his fault at all (i don’t know the circumstances of the incident) I think we could all use this as a reminder to try and be more careful, since drivers are obviously much more protected in their cars than cyclists are on their bikes. I hope we continue to be more mindful of one another (driver, cyclist, or pedestrian) as time progresses and incidents like this will become a rarity (unlikely, but one can dream). And PLEASE cyclists, wear a helmet!

    He was always a pleasure to speak to in the mornings and my prayers go out to his friends and family.

  6. My first espresso drink in Seattle was served to me by this man 16 years ago at the Vivace walk up. And I’ve been going back there and to the other stores ever since. He was truly a character and always remembered or recognized me and others. And it went beyond the stores as I just saw him a few weeks ago and said hello. This is just tragic news and I feel for all his friends and co-workers. All those guys and gals at Vivace have worked there and with him for years. I’m sure they are just stricken over this. Thoughts with you all.

  7. Why is there always someone that immediately jumps to not wearing a helmet?

    “While I’m not suggesting that it’s his fault at all”

    Yes, indeed you did…your very first sentence and second sentence were about donning helmets. You assume that because some cyclists don’t wear helmets, they are at fault when they are in a crash.

    While perhaps with good intentions, your blind faith in the helmet distracts from real issues. One, the poor man lost his life, who cares if he was wearing a helmet. Two, instead of wondering if he had a helmet on, you should wonder what faulty circumstances and infrastructure led to his crash.

    As illustrated by this tragic incident and sarahnell’s claim that dying while cycling is more likely in America than Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands (where helmet wearing is non existent), helmets are not a magic barrier. Further, society can’t make everyone wear a helmet just like we can’t make everyone obey speed limits, but we can design the infrastructure to make things safer for everyone.

  8. I saw this blurb on the Seattle times page… He’s a wonderful barista, I love vivaces… I live down in FW and we drive up to get a tasty beverage at vivaces. Praying for him and his family/friends.

  9. There’s no arguing that wearing a helmet increases a cyclist’s chance of surviving if they get in an accident, just as people wouldn’t argue that wearing a seatbelt is probably a good idea when driving. Obviously there’s no way to force everyone to wear a helmet and practice this good sense, but no matter how much you blame drivers/roads/etc, you cannot deny that wearing a helmet at least helps increase your chances of survival in an accident.

    I apologize if it seems like I was implying that he was at fault if he wasn’t wearing a helmet – I clearly was not trying to do so, and I’m actually assuming he DID wear a helmet. I’m just talking about it because I see a lot of cyclists who skip wearing helmets, and have friends who still don’t wear them / believe they make a difference (they do!). If anything I’m hoping people use this horrible tragedy as a lesson to be more careful and mindful about commuting (as cyclists, reconsidering wearing helmets and riding defensively, and as drivers, being more cautious and aware of their surroundings). I stand by the belief that wearing a helmet is good sense and should be encouraged. I am mostly a pedestrian and rarely ever drive (maybe 2-3x a month at most?), so please don’t assume that I’m “siding” with someone or “blaming” someone (i’m not blaming anyone in this case) because I’m suggesting we all practice safe habits.

  10. It is a terrible shame, he is a wonderful man. But there was no cars involved. Things happen in life, some of them are not good and sometimes there is no one to blame.

  11. Never let the facts get in your way when you can bash. Again no cars involved. There are all kinds of ways you can kill yourself on a bike or even just walking that don’t include cars or that others can protect you from.

    It is a terrible shame that they happened to this wonderful man who I’ve known for well over 20 years. My best thoughts to him and his family.

  12. So sad to learn of this. Brian, his family and his loved ones are most certainly in my thoughts. Brian- I’ve enjoyed many espresso pulls from you over the years, and you will be deeply missed but forever in our hearts. Peace.

  13. This is so awful! I remember Brian from so many years ago, I can’t count the Summers I spent sitting at a table in front of Vivace people watching. Brian was so funny and such a joy every time I saw him. Although I haven’t been to Vivace in a few years, it’s amazing to think about how many peoples lives he has touched just being there and being Brian. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear this. A unique man, instantly recognizable, and always a witty greeting for his customers. My thoughts are with him and his family.

  15. A brief chat with Brian and the best latte in the world were part of my daily routine for many years when I lived on the hill and he managed the original location. I’m devastated to read this very sad news, and join others in celebrating the unique place he held in our mutual history.

  16. agree with you completely, Mr. Detwiler. Some of my best memories of my early days in Seattle was coffee from him and disco dancing at your T-line.

  17. He would always have a smile for you, and greet you when you walk in the door. And if he saw you on the street, he would remember you and say Hi. He will be greatly missed. :(

  18. My wife is in Seattle due to her medical situation. We have been in Seattle since August 24 and stopped at the Cafe almost every day. We noticed Brian who would pop out to the serving area, say something and everybody laughing. It was obvious he had good vibes and is a “boss” that’s a good guy and liked by people who work for him. Brian – I hope you wake up and see the love and caring from everyone around you. We’ll be here months and I can’t wait to see you again.

  19. I am sick beyond words to hear about Brian’s accident. He always put a smile on my face. My deepest healing thoughts are with him. Please pull through for us Brian. There are so many of us pulling for you. Hugs, love and health…Maddie

  20. First, helmets seldom save lives. They were designed for children to prevent trauma at low speeds. They don’t hurt, but they seldom help.

    Second the fault lies 100% with egregiously poor bike trail design. The trail markings direct both directions of bike traffic to West side of the road here. Heading north that would put you in a lane riding against the flow of very fast mostly speeding traffic. Were one to follow the unsafe trail directions one would quickly opt for the sidewalk heading north. This ends in an unmarked staircase.

    If you want to experience just how silly this is yourself simply head out Saturday to ride the Chesiahaud loop counterclockwise. Apparently urban planning in Seattle amounts to cheap sharrows and cheap signs bearing the names of the native americans we’ve screwed over.

  21. THANK YOU for bringing this up! I don’t know if poor Brian’s death had anything to do with not wearing his helmet but still – WEAR YOUR HELMET WHEN RIDING YOUR BIKE!!!! Just like you should wear your helmet when riding a/your motorcycle, and wear your seat belt when riding in a car.

    Seriously, as someone who has seen too many people with horrible head injuries, I beg of you WEAR YOUR HELMET!!!!!!!!

  22. He had a way of making you fell like you were a good friend even though we didn’t know each other well…. plus he was always kind to my granddaughter.May blessings and love surround you Brian.

  23. So sad, my thoughts are with Brian and his family. I loved Brian’s dynamic personality-he always made me smile while tempting me with pastries.

  24. Vivace has long been the place where we get coffee throughout the day. He will be sorely missed. Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and coworkers.

  25. If you read the entire article it does point out that he was wearing a helmet and might have been distracted by the bright sun as he was descending the stairs.

    I saw Brian every day for the past 3 years. This just breaks my heart.

  26. To anyone who was a close friend to Brian,

    I would like to honor him by making a donation to an organization in his name.
    If anyone knows of such a charity, I would sincerely appreciate your suggestions. I did not know Brian on a personal level, but spoke with him often at Vivace. He will be missed by all who knew him. He was one of a kind.

  27. Perhaps heaven will be better caffeinated now. Those angels will be kicking some butt with Brian on their side!

    My heart and prayers go out to Brian’s friends and family (including his Vivace fam!). I hope you soon find peace.

  28. I’m still sad from losing Tyrone Fabroa, the Pagliacci Pizza manager and now Brian at Vivace. Both died from sporting accidents – both food service icons.
    What a loss for the Capitol Hill Community and beyond.
    Rest in Peace my friends.

  29. What a kind, strong and entertaining spirit. You feel you know someone when you see them for years and years, even just in a coffee exchange. Always a smile and an interesting conversation about someting relevant and meaningful. My prayers are with his family and friends. This world is at a loss.

  30. I only knew him from his friendly demeanor and smile across the espresso counter. He radiated a positive friendly energy. I am so sorry to hear this. Life is so fleeting. Peace to Brian, his friends, and family.

    May his memory and smile live on in those who’s lives he brightened and those who knew him by name or otherwise. I will miss him.

  31. I am truely sorry for everyone’s loss. He was one of the most wonderful people I have ever come across. May you all have peace in your hearts XOXO

  32. darling Brian, thank you for being you so well. I love you and am horrified I won’t be seeing you again. you led a good life, and despite what is in my mind bad timing, you had a clean death. thank you, sir, you were one of the good ones.

  33. I’m sorry for all of our loss tonight. He was a terrific Capitol Hill asset and we’re poorer as a neighborhood from this loss. RIP, friend.

  34. Sorry to hear about this and all bike deaths. RIP.

    Evidence shows the helmet is MUCH LESS of a factor than other variables – like proper infrastructure, and laws/enforcement favoring cyclists and keeping dangerous motorists away.

    The Economist recently reported on the danger cyclists face in Seattle versus Germany/Netherlands/Denmark, where a previous poster pointed out helmet wearing is almost non-existent. Non-existent.

    Riddle me this: If helmets are so great why does northern Europe-where cycling is WAY MORE COMMON- have a significantly lower -much, much lower- bike mortality rate than Seattle or the USA, where helmets are more commonly worn?

    F_ck helmets and mother-F cars. Give me good laws and infrastructure.

  35. Brian was a very good friend of my brother’s for many years, I feel very lucky that I got to know him he was an amazing person and a amazing friend to my family when my brother passed away. he was kind,caring, honest genuine person who lived life to its fullest.

    it is wonderful to see how many people’s lives he touched on many different levels just being himself it is a true atestiment to who he was, the world is a poorer place losing such a kind person

  36. Vivace could answer your question-anyone there would know. Or ask one of the dowager goddesses Ravenna, or the Radical Faeries. I didn’t know Brian well but he was always kind and said hello and “saw” me. I don’t know him well enough to answer your question, but go to Ravenna Ravine on fb and pose it if Vivace doesn’t suit…My question about the accident is the story seems to imply he was texting while riding. No one commented on that. And the bike path is ridiculous. But texting?

  37. How very, very sad.

    One thing I will remember about Brian is that he always had a friendly greeting for me when I passed him on the street, even though I haven’t been a Vivace customer for quite some time. Most service people (waiters, supermarket staff) will be friendly when they are on the job, but almost always ignore you otherwise, even though they recognize you from their store/restaurant. Brian was different this way, and it says alot about his character.

    Please rest in peace, sweet Brian.

  38. After a nearby doctors appointment, by chance I wandered into Alley 24 mid-morning on August 30th for a cup of coffee. I had never been in the establishment before. As I approached the counter, a very attentive man welcomed me and proceeded to take my order. I was struck by how on-his-game this man was. He had a sense of dedication to his work that one doesn’t come across very often. It was a very brief exchange, yet it made a big impression on me, so much that I took this man’s demeanor as a living example of how to better approach my line of work. It is so sad to learn that later that very same day this most horrible accident occurred and now this man is gone.

    RIP Brian Fairbrother, you were clearly a unique person and I thank you for our brief encounter, I just wish I had been able to know you better.

  39. I’ve known Brian for almost 10 years now, since I got hooked on Vivace’s lattes on Broadway. He was a truly amazing guy. Such a kind, intelligent and just, always quick to laugh, many great stories, very much a spiritual person. He touched so many people every day, now that Brian is gone there will be a palpable void, and not only on Broadway.
    I was unaware of his bicycling accident and just found out about his passing in todays paper. Reading that he has died was so shocking to me, and is filling me with a sense of loss that I am unable to put into words.
    I wish to send all of his friends and family my deep, most sincere sympathy and hope that the memories that they/we all of have Brian will help all of us get through the tough times.
    Oṃ śānti śānti śānti.

  40. I had an errand to do on Westlake this morning. I decided that, since I had commented here and some other places, I ought to go check out the site of his accident. Which, I’d like to say, was tragic. The man did not “deserve it,” no matter what he did. But no one should do anything other than tell the truth here, as they see it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    1. The city should have had a sign there, and at the other entrance to the lower walkway. More generally, the bicycling community of Seattle should use this as a wakeup call. Cascade Bicycle Club ought to perform a comprehensive inventory of cycling hazards, and get with the city to erect signs where needed, and make some repairs where needed.

    2. The sun was not an issue. The cyclist was traveling northeast. The sun would have been to his left rear. This blog’s statement that the sun might have been in his eyes his flat wrong, and should be corrected.

    3. The stairs (10 of them) are not visible from where the cyclist was. However, it’s obvious as you approach the accident site that there is a steep dropoff. This is especially the case when you consider that a cyclist sits a few inches higher than a pedestrian. A prudent cyclist would have slowed down before getting to the stairs. There is no other reasonable conclusion to draw as you stand there that the cyclist came up on those stairs much, much too quickly.

    4. It’s inconceivable to me that the cyclist would have been pulling a daredevil stunt, as I had suggested earlier. I do realize that there are some crazy people out there, but a 50-year-old man on a “city touring” bike wouldn’t have intentionally taken the stairs at full speed. What’s much, much more likely is that he misjudged his own speed, and/or his attention lapsed.

    5. The “trail” is in fact a city sidewalk, used by cyclists and pedestrians, and which in a fairly short space, crosses several sidestreets. It is not a place where a prudent cyclist ought to be going fast enough to get himself killed by falling down a flight of 10 stairs.

    6. If I was sitting on the jury called to render a personal injury judgment, my amateur judgment (i.e., never having been on such a jury, and currently lacking any instructions on how to apportion responsibility) would be that the cyclist bears three-quarters of the responsibility for the accident, on account of imprudent speed and/or inattentive cycling, and that the city bears one-quarter of the responsibility on account of not having a warning sign there.

    It’s terrible that this man died. Cyclists need to remember that they are not immune from accidents; that going too fast can kill them. Cycling organizations should spread that message, and should mount a concerted effort to work WITH the city to identify similar spots that need better signage, or in this case, signs at all.

  41. It is really sad that people like you are always looking to assign blame in an accident.

    You’d be a little more credible if you’d also wagged your finger at the person who posted above:

    F_ck helmets and mother-F cars. Give me good laws and infrastructure.

    Or the other person who posted:

    At what point does this city get serious about bike lanes and protecting cyclists?!

    Or this:

    From the Economist: DYING while cycling is three to five times more likely in America than in Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands.

    Or this:

    Second the fault lies 100% with egregiously poor bike trail design. The trail markings direct both directions of bike traffic to West side of the road here. Heading north that would put you in a lane riding against the flow of very fast mostly speeding traffic. Were one to follow the unsafe trail directions one would quickly opt for the sidewalk heading north. This ends in an unmarked staircase.If you want to experience just how silly this is yourself simply head out Saturday to ride the Chesiahaud loop counterclockwise. Apparently urban planning in Seattle amounts to cheap sharrows and cheap signs bearing the names of the native americans we’ve screwed over.

  42. I met Brian some months ago in a Tai Chi class taught by Richard Aires; Brian was full of energy and had dance moves which complimented our study. I miss talking with him and the chance to practice in the park. Rest in peace Brian.

  43. Maybe you should work on your reading comprehension. I said “people like you” so that includes other people who just start point fingers and assigning responsibility.

    Now that we have established the credibility of my finger wagging and the lack of credibility in your finger wagging maybe you can accept some responsibility.

  44. Right. And you just happened to attach your nastygram to the only comment that didn’t point the finger at the city, or the United States, or bike helmets, or cars. Instead, you attach it to a thorough and careful analysis of the accident, an analysis that includes specific ideas to prevent a repetition.

    But hey, I get it. You don’t care about improving bike safety in Seattle.

  45. In my opinion, Jake Jackson’s post is very thoughtful and fair, and probably accurate (I haven’t visited the site). He is not trying to “blame Brian.”…but simply pointing out an especially hazardous area, where cyclists need to be very careful, and where the City could help by adding some appropriate signage.

    Many people (me included) are sad about Brian’s death. It honors his memory to write about increasing cycling safety, and this exactly what Jake Jackson is doing.

  46. I am so sad to learn that Brian is no longer sharing his happy vibes with this world. He was such a wonderful, treasured friend to my nephew, Marcus, and so much support for our family when Marcus passed away. I can only hope that their spirits are reunited. Such a loss.

  47. I am so sorry, Brian, that I didn’t specifically tell you how important your respectful and friendly service at Vivace by REI was to my daughter. who has seen her fair share of judgemental stares because of some tough mental days. You even had someone put a candle on a danish when you overheard me talk about how it was her birthday. I so regret not telling you each time how much a difference your spirit could make in our day. I only hope that you could feel our appreciative vibes. Thank you

  48. I lived on Capitol Hill for 8 yrs and used to go to the Vivace outpost on Broadway ALL of the time. Brian was the manager there and he was always so nice. I had an ongoing experience with a barista who worked there and she was constantly rude to me. She just did not like my demeanor at all and so she was extra blunt and obnoxious with me. One time, she humiliated me over an eggnog latte. I lost it on her and told her off…screamed at her, and my boyfriend threw my eggnog latte against the shop wall (after I paid for it????) and then we left. She and her coworker just stood there laughing their asses off at me. I was so angry and thought they were the biggest hypocrites given that Capitol Hill is so diverse and the whole vibe there is about accepting differences. Well, I guess that only applied to differences SHE approved of. She was mean more often than not. I went back a few days later and spoke to Brian about it. He could have been a jerk to me and supported his employee, and he did tell me that she had an attitude and that attitude is her “thing”, but he agreed that she should not be a bully. He told me that he would speak to her about it. This happened about ten yrs ago and after that incident, my boyfriend and I called the Vivace outpost on Broadway, “The Bitch Hut.” I thought Brian was a really good guy and I talked to him quite a bit at that coffee hut. I was saddened to read of his accident and untimely death. I am very sorry. Too soon…too soon. Life can be so unfair..Best to his family and friends, Catherine

  49. I met you at the Vivace stand, of course I did, fifteen years ago. It was my first time living in the “big city” just after high school, fresh off the farm, and I chose to move on Broadway two doors down from Vivace. I was twenty years old and too smart for my own good. Every day you and I chatted about everything under the sun. You remembered my espresso orders as they mutated from a soy mocha to my more puritanical drinks after a trip to Italy (espresso, macchiattos and dry cap on a cold day). When Vivace’s brilliant owner decided to begin weeding out the milk and thus your hands were tied to serve lukewarm, lacking in foam drinks you stated “you are our ideal customer. You understand espresso. You drink espresso, except for the occasional cap and I can’t have you not getting what you want no matter how brilliant the owner is” and from then on you would whisper orders int he ears of the barista an my cap would be hot and foamy, though it was your ass on the line. You were committed to excellence. You saw me as ore then a customer. I know this because somewhere in the middle of our fifteen year barista- customer relationship I fell to the street in a series of seizures and bashed my face up pretty badly and while I tried to hide from the world I did walk the street to Vivace to get an espresso a few days later. The habit was comforting. Only after your death I realize it was you that was comforting. That day you saw the battered and bruised head and face I was wearing and asked “Meagan, what has happened to your face, sweetheart?” I revealed to you the truth that few know. That despite many, many tests from the most brilliant minds at UW no one knew what was wrong with my brain. But they all knew one thing- my brain suffered terrible trauma in a previous car accident and I was lucky to be alive, to be functioning and to be only having seizures. I carried that secret around for years. I still do, for the most part. I am an author now, a business owner. I went from the poor girl fresh off the farm to traveling the world and each time I would return you would proclaim that Seattle was not the same without me. While I lived in Seattle you were EVERYWHERE I was. The loft space on Capital Hill you were assisting with an art installation next door, the house in Madison Park you were helping a friend with their yard next door. You were like a guardian angel watching over me while I lived in Seattle. Always carrying my secret with those compassionate eyes. And I know you enough to know you hadn’t forgotten. That beautiful mind of yours never forgets. Not a name, a face, or favorite drink. I since gave up on Seattle. I watched the city turn into something I no longer loved. I moved to LA four months ago. You couldn’t believe I was leaving. “Seattle is never the same when you’re gone” you would say. I promised to share with you all the adventures when I next passed through. Three months later you died- of a terrible brain injury. Trauma to the brain. The very reason I should be dead and all the experts don’t understand why am still here. I don’t understand why you are not. I can honestly say I have some very big shoes to fill. But I will try, Brian. I have learned from you that making each and every person you come in contact with feel special is possible. I intend on carrying that legacy of yours into the world. Thank you for being my teacher in the disguise of a Barista at Vivace. Seattle suffers a blow unlike any other with your passing. Goodbye my friend.