Miracles Do Happen

By every known Law of the Universe, this place should have been a Starbucks.  At First and University across the street from Harbor Steps and the Seattle Art Museum, it’s one of the most primo corner locations in all of downtown Seattle.  But no, miraculously, a family-owned independent cafe called Stella got the lease.  How can this be?

Stella is the kind of place where  the owners’ kid knows the regulars; where nobody freaks out if a customer comes in with a dog; where you’re not surprised to be brought a little sample of crostini on the house.   In other words, it’s a place with soul.  Civilized.  Anti-McStarbucks.

Last week a woman came in with an empty plastic Starbucks cup and asked for her drink to be put in it.  The barista—who had only been working at Stella for a few weeks at most—told her,  “I’m not gonna put our coffee in that cup.”   At first the woman thought he was joking and tried to hand him the cup anyway, but the barista said it again, and even as it became obvious the customer was not taking it well and getting annoyed, he said it a third time.  The woman walked out in a polite, Seattle-style huff.

The truth is, cafes like Stella owe a lot to Starbucks for reinventing the gourmet coffee market and bringing it mainstream.  Too bad Starbucks became cancerous.

37 Responses to “Miracles Do Happen”

  1. Zelbinian

    Up until the 3rd paragraph, I wanted to visit that place. What that barista did is unceremoniously stupid for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is that the lady was re-using a cup, for crying out loud! That’s the kind of thing we need people to do! *facepalm*

  2. John Jensen

    I have to agree with Zelbinian. Reduce, re-use, recycle! I’m happy it’s a small, family-owned shop but that’s no excuse to be pretentious and encourage waste.

  3. keith

    sure, re-using cups is properly green but there’s something to be said for being militant about where you go pouring your product. i’ll be at stella next time i’m downtown: tuesday.

  4. Manuel W.

    This is the second report I’ve heard about the people at Stella being rude. Might I suggest Ancient Grounds coffeeshop, two doors to the right on First Ave, where Roland will pour an excellent drink sans attitude.

  5. JoshMahar

    @4: Oh come on, Whats coffee without a little attitude. I’m glad they refused to put their coffee into a starbucks cup. To-Go coffee is stupid anyway. Coffee should be enjoyed while relaxing and chatting, not consumed as purely a source of caffeine.

  6. Zelbinian

    @ 5 … o_0

  7. John Jensen

    A little attitude here and there is cute, but so is a kind and unpretentious demeanor. I’ve had QFC employees tease me about using a re-usable Whole Foods bag before, but it was a teasing joke where everyone had a great laugh and smiles that fills the soul.

  8. Matt the Engineer

    Heh. I’m picturing it now: “We’re not putting our groceries in that bag.”

  9. Lance

    I’m actually disappointed when I get coffee and the barista -isn’t- a prick, I see it more as a performance… competition as to who is the hippest barista.

  10. Joeg

    I agree! Reduce reuse recycle. Ancient grounds is excellent and so is the new wine/coffee place that opened at the four seasons just up the block. Bad move on that barista’s part. He should have just sucked it up and did what the customer asked. For all he knows, he may have just lost a lifetime customer. It’s not like she could have possibly have carried that with her for days and days only wanting to drink from that one cup, she would have probably have done the same thing if she came from stella to starbucks later in the day. Starbucks I’m sure would have been more than happy to do that for her. Or maybe they would have said some corporate bs about cleanliness and blah blah blah, but you get my point.

  11. sevens

    This coffee shop is excellent and the staff have always been seattle-friendly. They make a damn good cup of coffee and putting it in a starbucks cup is an insult. if that customer really cared about reduce-reuse-recycle and all of that sanctimonious claptrap then she would have brought in her own damn mug.

    Maybe it is slightly on the pretentious side but…come on…starbucks….please.

  12. Brian

    What, is this story supposed to make me think Stella’s is cool?

    Disgusting. If anything that customer should have been thanked for bringing in their own cup.


  13. J David

    No excuse for not reusing a cup. That was a chance for some well deserved ribbing of the customer, but to refuse to pour it is just dumbasscity. Silly hipsters…

    I like Ancient Grounds a lot (dude is cool), but Cherry St a couple of doors down is one of my favorite coffee shops. There’s attitude to spare, but it’s the self-assured kind, not the kind with daddy issues.

  14. Good Grief

    Wow — that place sounds like a douchebag-fest. Thanks for the warning.

  15. Dean Ruffner

    With that kind of customer service, that space will become a Starbucks yet. Shrewd.

  16. Roy Blunt

    I’m all for stickin’ it to the big boys, but not to the customer. Product and Service should stand alone and make me want support them.

    A little attitude would be cool if I didn’t find it everywhere I went. From my local Cap Hill Co-op to my local bike shop…its a freakin’ Dogmafest. I’m growing my own coffee beans and food…and bikes.


  17. Ellery

    Dan’s ulterior motive, to turn everyone else off to Stella’s so that the masses wont spoil his regular little haunt, appears to be working well. This place is the best. That Starbucks cup thing might be a little extreme, but the attitude is well-deserved. Some of the finest coffee (and wine), ambiance, and service in the city. And I love the care they’ve taken to restore the space. The floors in the back “Dillard” room (named for the old hotel that was once on that corner) have a finish that you can only get when you do the job yourself, pouring your love and dreams into a place. It gets ten stars in my book.

  18. chrispy

    Uh yeah… never going to set foot in this place. When did such a stoopid and inconsequential thing as coffee become a cause of cultural warfare. I’m talking big picture here. Pathetic is right.

    I’m so sick of these pretentious douche-baggy – and rude – coffee shops. All you smug hipster peeps can have this one and revel in your own uniqueness.

  19. Stephanie Pure

    It was a bit rude for the customer to bring in a cup from another establishment, but I think the thing to do would have been to grin and bear it. Or perhaps say “would you like a beautiful Stella cup?” and hope the customer would have gotten the hint.

  20. Andrew Smith

    I agree with you 100%, except that dogs should be left at home: no need for animals in downtown Seattle.

  21. Zelbinian

    All of you siding with the barista because the coffee is just *THAT* good . . . you do realize that the mug has absolutely no influence on the flavor of the beverage, yes?

  22. Ellery

    I’m not siding with the barista, but just cuz some new barista had too much attitude shouldn’t make you write off the whole place. I’ve met the owners and they are wonderful. The coffee, wine, anti-pasti and ambiance all make this place worth a visit.

  23. chrispy

    I think I’ll head in with my Winchell’s or am/pm cup. I have a feeling that it would be “ironically retro” enough for me to get some of this supposed black gold poured into my styrofoam.

    I apologize… this is beyond ludicrous. One of the reasons I stopped going to Ladro: I don’t really need to pay for someone to be rude and condescending to me.

  24. bailey

    stella on a sunday night,
    the harbor steps sunset refracted in the chandelier.
    in the bustle of a caffe, i sip my wine alone,
    and think of how i have a quarter-life for you
    and how i ache that i can not give you more.
    thank goodness for this high tin ceiling, painted glaring white,
    to lift these spirits that would otherwise dissolve
    into the hand-buffed floor.

  25. Kathryn

    For a while, the folks at Tully’s (I know another big one) would trade any Star$$$ logo’d thermal cup for a Tully’s version of the same…

  26. mad park

    Well, after all of that, let’s not forget the FABULOUS paper right next door that has been there for a quarter of a century. Hand made book marks, imported calendars, a terrific selection of wrapping paper, cards, and more; Catherine is the delightful proprietor. Go, spend, go back, spend more!

  27. Jeff

    Heck yeah! I’ve been spending a few evenings a week at Stella and every one of the staff members is friendly, happy to see you there, and definitely getting to know the regulars.

  28. blaster99

    Agree with Zelbinian. Completely lame of the barista b*tch to do that.

  29. MikeP

    What they really should have done was filled the customer’s cup (or bucket or fishbowl, whatever they’re willing to pay for) and had a stack of Stella Coffee(TM) stickers at the ready to obscure whatever offensive corporate logo happened to have been presented. If the customer was willing to walk around with a Starbucks branded cup, they would probably willing to advertise for your little shop, too.

  30. Lance

    I say we flash mob this place with a bunch of Starbucks cups…. that’ll really make ’em flip their stuff.

  31. Rob Wilson

    Hey all,
    We’ve read the replies and the post and would like to set the record straight. Stella is not about excluding ANYONE who want to be there. The rule is simply that you are entitled to have your own trip as long as your trip is not harmful or hurtful to others. This incedent was a mistake on the kid’s part. He is new and still learning how we do things . He has vowed to be down to earth!
    We are only required to use either disposable take away wares by kc health or sterilize them in the case of reusable containers, not pass judgement on them.
    As we were not present we cannot say for sure what took place, but we have been informed about he sittuation and attempted to contact the customer. But make no mistake, we dislike snotty baristas as much or more than you all! There is no mandate at Stella against sbux or anyone else. I myself self pour at least a dozen coffees into sbux and others thermo cups everyday. To make it clear, we do not care about what logo is on the cup, as long as it’s Stella Coffee in the cup! So please, bring your am pm/ sbux/ who – so-ever cup and we’ll be happy to fill it with our coffee. We are greatful for the business and support from all in the community.
    We thank you all for reading this, invite you to join us ( I would love to have the flash mob thing happen :) and bring whatever cup you fancy!
    Rob and Josie Wilson, Owners Stella Caffe

  32. rusty

    yawn. What no real urban issues happening in our fair city?

  33. Ellery

    Rob & Josie – Thank you for taking the time to reply! I love your place.

  34. Sivalinga

    ***tAkEaWaY WaReZ***

  35. From Ethiopia To A Stripmall Starbucks Drive-Thru | hugeasscity

    […] The reining corporate king of coffee, Starbucks, reinvented coffee for Americans, reawakening the appreciation both for quality taste, and for the cafe as a significant social space.  But alas, Starbucks couldn’t resist succumbing to the giant sucking sound that is the American business tradition, wherein success leads only in one direction:  total domination through the virile distribution of uniformly sterile product to every last possible street corner. […]

  36. Ruth Fernandez

    I usually just go to Dunkin Donuts for my coffee. After reading this I think I’ll take your advice and try some new things.

  37. dog food containers

    Substantially, the post is really the sweetest on this precious topic. I suit in with your conclusions and also will certainly eagerly look forward to your coming updates. Simply saying thanks definitely will not simply just be enough, for the excellent lucidity in your writing. I can at once grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Genuine work and much success in your business efforts!

Leave a Reply