This was supposed to be a celebratory week for Black Coffee Northwest. The upcoming Black-owned cafe and community center in Shoreline was almost ready to open for at least drive-thru service on Thursday, October 1, after much planning and a fundraising campaign. Then, in the early morning hours of September 30, the exterior of the shop was damaged by a suspected arsonist, as reported by the Seattle Times.
According to King County Sheriff Ryan Abbott, someone threw several “incendiary devices” (identified as molotov cocktails in news reports) at the back of the building after a failed attempted break-in. Authorities are currently investigating the crime through video footage of the incident. There was no damage done to the interior, Abbott said in a statement released to the press.
The incident was heartbreaking for Black Coffee NW, which aspires to be a gathering space for social justice work, in addition to being a coffee shop and community refuge. When Eater Seattle spoke to co-owner DarNesha Weary on September 29, a day before the building was targeted, she expressed deep optimism over plans for the space. Black Coffee NW will be a youth-driven nonprofit that not only will sell roasts and food from other Black-owned businesses (like Boon Boona in Renton), but also develop a barista training program, an after-school study hour, a youth outreach initiative, and a series of cafe conversations revolving around current events.
When asked by local news outlet King5 whether the owners of the shop believe the incident was racially motivated, DarNesha Weary said, “Absolutely. I think people know who we are. We’re unapologetic for who we are. We have shown up for the Black community, especially in this area where there is not a lot of representation.”
After the arson incident, Eater reached back out to both DarNesha and her husband Erwin Weary (Black Coffee NW’s co-owner) for an update, but did not hear back before this piece was published. According to its social media postings, the coffee shop still hopes to open later this month, and has asked people via Instagram to spread the word about the incident to help with the investigation. Those with information can call the King County Arson Investigator’s office at 206-263-2070.
Neighbors showed up after the incident to offer support this week, and some drew messages in solidarity on the pavement outside the building. In a Facebook post, Black Coffee NW wrote, “This is what it’s all about. Our youth will lead. We will not backdown. We will continue proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.”