For decades, Starbucks on Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue has been a pivot point for the entire Central District. When it opened in 1997 it was controversial from the start, as local institution Catfish Corner was also trying to get that space; that it went to a corporate chain rather than a Black-owned family business was a sign of the burgeoning gentrification of the CD.
But things have come full circle: Nearly a year after Starbucks closed that store (along with a few others) for safety-related reasons, it’s being taken over by Black Coffee Northwest, one of the metro area’s more prominent Black-owned coffee shops, according to the Seattle Times:
The coffee shop, at 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street, will bring internships, youth programs and partnerships with other Black businesses to create a space for important conversations, [co-owner] Darnesha Weary said.
“Black businesses were there, they were the heartbeat of that community, and we need to go back and reclaim our space, and again become the heartbeat of that community,” she said.
Before it was closed in 2022, that Starbucks had become a neighborhood hub. It had jazz-themed decorations (a nod to the musical legacy of Jackson Street), a few of which still remain on the exterior of the building. It was frequently crowded with all types of customers from the rapidly changing neighborhood — on any given day you could find Ethiopian men chatting around tables and Garfield High School students who skipped class in favor of waiting in line for a mocha. In 2013, it became one of Starbucks’s “community stores,” meaning it contributed money to and partnered with local nonprofits.
Last July, that store was shuttered along with four other Seattle Starbucks in response to safety concerns, as violent crime and gun violence spiked. Violence in the neighborhood is still a problem — Garfield suspended in-person classes for June 2 after three shootings near the school — and the vacant storefront on a busy intersection is a very obvious reminder of the Central District’s struggles.
The property’s owner, Vulcan (owned by Jody Allen) was hoping to find a business to occupy it that was a good fit with the neighborhood, according to the Times, and found one in Black Coffee Northwest. It may be serendipitous timing for the coffee shop, as its owners are in a dispute with the landlord of their Shoreline location, Bethany Community Church, which is suing them for over $20,000 in unpaid rent. That situation could end with the Shoreline store closing down.
Black Coffee Northwest plans to open the new location sometime later this year.