Redmond City Council member Steve Fields should have bigger things to worry about than the closing of a Capitol Hill coffee shop his wife Ronni Fields has run for three years. He’s running for mayor of the Eastside city, the state’s 18th largest.
“I’m the grassroots candidate. My opponent is very well established with lots of support from developers.”
The political match-up, in a way, parallels the August shuttering of Harvard Ave’s tiny Down Pour Coffee.
Fields says the lessons from Down Pour are about making sure you remember you’re going up against a well established system when you’re chasing your dreams of small business ownership.
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Property owners “have the strength because have been through it many, many times,” Fields says, looking back on the lease he and his wife now feel lucky to have escaped for the ground floor retail space at Harvard Ave E’s Rubix Apartments.
The couple opened Down Pour on Capitol Hill in 2016 as an expansion from their Redmond original. The hope was to serve customers with a quieter, cozier off-Broadway coffee joint. But Fields said planned improvements including simple elements like heat for the commercial space took much longer than expected to complete.
Meanwhile, the Eastsiders also learned something about Capitol Hill residents. A lot of them work on the Eastside or downtown or Fremont or South Lake Union. Weekdays in certain parts of the Hill can be a ghost town.
The cafe never really took off, Fields said. “It was just a failure from the beginning,” he said.
Even with the closure of nearby Roy Street Coffee, with an opportunity to exit the lease early, it was time to quit. “We had no choice but to shut down.”
Back in Redmond, the original Down Pour is now the focus of the couple’s coffee business while the city council member ramps up his campaign for November’s vote. The small business travails will make any political hardships look easy.
“It’s the most painful thing we’ve ever done in our entire life,” Fields said. “We’re glad to be out.”
“My wife loves the coffee business and she was really hoping to make it up there.”