The city of Everett, Washington has never been mistaken for cool.
Before you come at me with a minor league baseball promotional bat, Everett readers, let me state first that I'm from Tacoma, the Pacific Northwest's other urban punchline, and so I know from Puget Sound uncool. Tacoma was at least cool a hundred years ago, before the rail lines extended to Seattle, and sealed the city's fate. Everett has never been hip—90's throwback AquaSox gear aside.
But change is the galaxy's only constant, and sometimes it happens quickly—especially when coffee's involved. It's been less than a year since we first profiled Narrative Coffee, the coffee brand from US National Barista competitor and accomplished coffee professional Maxwell Mooney. Last August the project wasn't much more than a humble little coffee cart in Everett's Westmore Plaza. But after a lightning-quick confluence of circumstances—the right partner, the right building, a build-out process done away from big city glare—Narrative Coffee has come of age in the guise of a brand new, stunningly built 1800 square-foot cafe in the heart of downtown Everett.
This is Narrative's opening weekend, but between managing last-minute details and taking down a Snohomish County “No Trespassing” sign, Mooney made time to speak with Sprudge the night before his soft open.
“I actually found this space three days after launching the pop-up,” Mooney says. “We opened over July 4th weekend. I walked by a few days later, saw this building, and said ‘man, that is really something.'” The space, designed by Seattle-based architect Wesley Pierce, features 42 seats, including bar seating, tables, and a couple of comfy couches. The space is a collaboration between Mooney and his business partner Richard Orr; the duo met in the comments of the Barista Guild of Washington State Facebook page. Orr was a fan of Mooney's pop-up, and the cafe concept grew from there.
Narrative opens with a stable of gear from industry standards, including a La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, Nuova Simonelli Mythos Climapro grinders, Hario V60 for filter coffee served by a Marco UC4 with Uber font, a Mahlkonig EK43 grinder serving filter and decaf espresso, and batch brew via Fetco.
About that batch brew: it'll be offered via an “honor bar”, meaning customers will fill their own mugs and check themselves out via Square for batch brew transactions. “We’re right across the street from city hall and the courthouse,” Mooney tells Sprudge. “When people are busy, this is the best way we can serve them.”
And the coffee? Narrative is a multi-roaster cafe, meaning they'll be serving coffee from multiple roasters around the country—and world. Mooney plans on operating an ambitious rotating monthly program, featuring multiple coffees from three different roasters at any time. They'll include a local Snohomish County roaster, a Pacific Northwest regional roaster, and national / international roaster. Coffees are evaluated by Mooney and his staff using a custom cupping form developed in-house, designed to select coffees that are consumer-facing and exciting for Narrative's customer base. “The idea is to provide an open feedback loop between roaster and coffee bar,” says Mooney, who has plans to publish these cupping scores (with brand names hidden) on a section Narrative Coffee's website.
Narrative opens with coffee from Velton's and Spotted Cow Coffee Roasters (Mooney's former gig) of Snohomish County, Camber Coffee of Bellingham, WA, and Quills Coffee of Louisville, KY. The whole thing is pretty far out for Everett, a nominally sleepy exurb of Seattle with a popular around 100,000, and a traditionally dingy regional reputation. Mooney cites Narrative as having big city influences like G&B Coffee in Los Angeles, Monogram Coffee in Calgary, and Slate Coffee in Seattle. How will that play across the street from the Snohomish County Courthouse?
“So many people are thirsty here for good coffee,” Mooney tells Sprudge, pun surely intended. “They drive to Seattle or Mill Creek in order to get it. This cafe is for them—this city has an incredible music scene, an art gallery scene, and I want to serve those folks, to be an incubator for them, and in a small way help the community here in Everett grow and develop.” Could Everett be the next Oakland? The next Manchester? A thriving food, beverage and cultural center in a traditional “second city” setting? A revitalized urban area offering relatively cheaper housing and ample space for culture to grow on the cheap?
It's already happening. Everett is rising; it's not a hypothetical, and I can only wish the same for my own beloved Tacoma (it's a complicated love), 100 miles south down the subtle slope of the Puget Sound. This is one of the most exciting and beautiful new cafes to open in the American Pacific Northwest in 2017, and it's in Everett.
This city is writing a new narrative, and Narrative Coffee is here to fuel it.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
Photos by Becca Tapert, used with permission and thanks.