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.