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Capitol Hill neighbors, meet the new owners of the Volunteer Park Cafe

The Capitol Hill real estate market remains hot enough that any transaction can create a buzz as neighbors wait to find out who will be moving in. At 17th and Galer, the excitement is even tastier — it comes with scones.

Volunteer Park Cafe has new owners after one of the more interesting transactions in Capitol HIll food and drink history. Andria Millie, Alisha Chou, and James DeSarno announced Monday they are the winning bidders for the much loved cafe:

Millie and Chou, who met in 2005 while working at Dahlia Lounge, reunited to buy VPC from chef Ericka Burke. DeSarno, principal at Seattle-based D3 Architects and owner of Freehand Cellars in the Yakima Valley, purchased the property and holds a minority stake in the cafe.

CHS reported in January on the real estate listing for the $1.7 million 1904-built, two-story market and apartment at 17th and Galer as co-founder Ericka Burke decided it was time to move on from the 13-year-old business. A sale price for the property is not yet publicly available and was not included in the announcement of the new ownership.

The cafe debuted in 2007 as a collaboration between Burke and baker extraordinaire Heather Earnhardt. Before VPC, the building housed the infamously odd Cafe Europa and old timers still refer to it as Groucho’s for the old market that served the Hill in its Leave it to Beaver days.

The new owners also have food, drink, and design experience. According to the announcement on the new owners, Millie moved back to Seattle from Austin, Texas, “where she had opened and operated a catering and cafe business for nearly eight years.” She previously worked at Dahlia Lounge and Le Pichet in Seattle. Millie will serve as executive chef. Chou is also “a veteran of the Seattle hospitality scene, having worked at restaurants including Cafe Juanita, Dahlia Lounge and Harvest Vine” and will manage the restaurant.

“Together, they look forward to nurturing and growing VPC’s reputation as a delicious place to call home,” the announcement reads.

The ownership also plans to upgrade the care’s dinner offerings and will showcase wines from Freehand Cellars. Meanwhile, the old grocery will also get some love. Architect DeSarno “will preserve the property and cafe,” the group announced.

The changeover will be a quick one. Volunteer Park Cafe is set to close on March 21 “for some light renovations” before a scheduled March 31st reopening for breakfast and lunch only. Dinner should be back on the menu, the group says, by the start of summer.


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