The Cookie Counter, a sweet new business partner with vegan ice cream sandwiches and pink walls, comes to Capitol Hill’s Gay City

(Image: Brie DiFelici with permission)

Gay City neighbor Kaladi Brothers Coffee moved back to its former, overhauled space a few doors down late last year. Now the LGBTQ+ community, resource, health, and arts center has a new business partner to add to its mix: The Cookie Counter, a Greenwood-based dessert shop and café for vegan pastries, cookies and ice cream.

The Capitol Hill outpost of The Cookie Counter, which will also keep its Greenwood shop open, is slated to open in the last week of June, with the grand opening coinciding with Seattle’s Pride weekend.

“To be in that space [Kaladi’s] will be nostalgic for us,” said Chelsea Keene, who co-founded The Cookie Counter with her husband Chris Olson. Both longtime vegans, the couple started making and selling vegan ice cream sandwiches out of their ’74 Volkswagen bus in 2014. “When Chris and I lived on the hill, the previous Kaladi Brothers Coffee space at Gay City was our favorite coffee shop.”

The couple opened their pastel-tinted shop in Greenwood in 2016. The Capitol Hill location will seat around 30 people, approximately 10 more than the Greenwood shop, though the millennial pink color palette will stay the same.

 

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The Cookie Counter’s Greenwood location (Image: Mackenzie Schieck with permission)

“The main difference with the Hill location is that we’ll be in a shared space with Gay City’s LGBTQ library,” Keene said. “We’ll be encouraging our patrons to use the library and to feel free to sit down with a great book and a delicious cookie.”

Keene said The Cookie Counter, though famous for its early ice-cream sandwiches and in-house made ice cream, focuses mostly on vegan cookies — an outside neon sign will spell out “cookies cookies cookies” — such as the double chocolate sea salt and peanut butter s’mores.

The Cookie Counter will also donate 1% of both its Greenwood and Capitol Hill shop sales to Gay City, and Keene said she’s hoping to have her staff volunteer at the nonprofit as well. Executive director Fred Swanson said Gay City will provide training for The Cookie Counter’s staff on LGTBQ+ issues.

In January, Gay City put out a Request for Proposals for a new business partner. They received three bids, and chose The Cookie Counter, Swanson said. “We didn’t want to duplicate what was already in the building, so [not] another coffee shop,” Swanson said of the decision. “We wanted something that was kind of fun, and engaging,” he said, adding that The Cookie Counter was really “community-minded” and that the hours of both the center and the cookie shop overlap well.

“The decision was really about: Who’s going to work with us, who’s willing to become, kind of part of our space, as opposed to being an independent business in our space.”

Swanson said that Gay City wanted to be more intentional with their presence in the new space, which is now much more open thanks to a removed wall.

Due to the layout of the space and, Swanson suggested, perhaps fewer LGBTQ+ people on the Hill, some customers assumed the space was Kaladi’s and saw it less as a partnership with Gay City. Now, the nonprofit occupies the front of the property more visibly, with a welcoming desk immediately visible from the entrance, which is also more noticeably shared. “It’s hard not to notice that when you walk into our space,” Swanson said.

The idea? Show people that “this is Gay City. In Gay City, we have a vendor, as opposed to the other way around.”

Gay City and The Cookie Counter are located at 517 E Pike. You can learn more at gaycity.org and seattlecookiecounter.com.

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