With the official opening of Black Coffee Northwest in Shoreline this Saturday, Oct. 17, an Edmonds family is celebrating the realization of a dream: To support youth of color with a welcoming community gathering space and work training opportunities, and to provide customers with delicious food and drink — much of it from Black-owned businesses.
The concept of such a coffee shop was born after two teens were the target of racial slur outside Harvey’s Lounge on Edmonds’ Highway 99 in February 2018. The teens’ mother, Darnesha Weary, said the incident — which occured while her children were working on a homework assignment — inspired the family to provide a “safe space” for Black and brown youth and their families. They launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the former One Cup Coffee business in the 16700 block of Aurora Avenue North, and so far have received $80,000 from both individual and corporate donors, Weary said.
Everything was in place for Black Coffee Northwest to open Oct. 1 — until an as-yet-unidentified suspect or suspects threw several “incendiary devices” at the back of the building after a failed break-in attempt around 3:30 a.m. Sept. 30. The act is now being investigated by the King County Sheriff’s Office with the FBI as a possible hate crime, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott. Weary says “there is no question” the attack was racially motivated, given the family’s “unapologetic” efforts to speak on behalf of communities of color.
After the family assessed the damage, Darnesha Weary — who works as a racial equity coach and teacher — said her initial focus was on sharing the news with the 18 young people who are working at Black Coffee. “I took time with our youth. I had to unpack with them why this happens, what this means,” Weary said, adding that the incident “took an emotional toll.”
Then, the workers got back to the business of repairing the damage in time for a four-hour “soft opening” last Saturday that drew an estimated 800 customers and an outpouring of support from those who lined up around the block. “As a community we wanted to show to whoever did this, it will not be tolerated,” Weary said.
This Saturday’s grand opening will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but after that, the shop will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. seven days a week, Weary said. Right now, due to COVID-19, the business is drive-through only.
Weary stressed that the business is youth-led, and that is evident when visiting the Meet Our Team page of the Black Coffee website. Weary’s daughter Mikalaya — a 17-year-old senior at Shorecrest High School — is the company’s co-president, along with seventh-grader Cedella Dean.
Youth are involved in many aspects of the operation, even assisting in developing coffee drinks for the shop’s specialty of the month. (One flavor now being tested, Weary shared, is a mocha infused with lavendar.)
But there is adult guidance, Weary stressed, noting that she serves as operations director and her husband Edwin Weary, Sr. is the company’s CEO.
The family didn’t have restaurant experience prior to opening Black Coffee, and Darnesha Weary gratefully noted that they have been mentored by local business owners. Pam Stuller, founder and owner of Edmonds’ Walnut Street Coffee “has taken us under her wing,” Weary said, adding they have also received support from the owners of Edmonds’ Calypso Carribean restaurant.
Black Coffee is committed to supporting other Black-owned businesses through the products its offers. Coffee beans are from Renton-based African coffee roaster Boon Boona. Lynnwood-based Zuri’s Donutz is making seasonal custom pastries, and will be providing free samples this Saturday. The menu also includes acai bowls featuring Seattle Granola Company granola and Edmonds-based Hunni Co. water.
Saturday’s grand opening will include a voter registration drive, which is part of what Weary describes as Black Coffee’s “community-centered” commitment. This includes “teaching kids about social responsibility,” such as the importance of voting. There will also be future voter registration for 16-year-olds, who under Washington State law can register now and receive a ballot after their 18th birthday, plus a mock voter registration for elementary students. In addition, there will be a scavenger hunt for youth to identify their local political leaders.
And Weary said the business will continue its work — begun even before the shop officially opened — to support those in need, including collection drives for coats, food and ethnic hair care products.
“That is who we are — we are community focused, we will take care of people first,” Weary said.
— By Teresa Wippel