Cherry Street Coffee, a twenty-two year veteran of the Seattle coffee landscape, is owned and operated by the Ghambari family—which includes 2014 United States Barista Champion Laila Ghambari. This morning, the Cherry Street team opened its 10th Seattle store at 320 E Pine Street on Capitol Hill. We’ve covered Laila Ghambari here at Sprudge a number of times, from her Northwest Regional win to the mountains of Ecuador, and we’re now happy to offer an inside look at Ghambari’s unique vision for this latest milestone in the Cherry Street family.
Last week we caught up with Ghambari for a chat and pictures of the buildout process, which you can see below. Visit the new Pine Street cafe for yourself starting this morning, November 10th.
When did you start working for Cherry Street? What role do you have there, and how has it been coming home to your family’s business?
I worked for my father as a barista and manager about five years ago, and started working for Cherry Street again at the very beginning of this year. I was hired on as the Director of Coffee, managing basically anything that has to do with coffee. That means working with Dillanos to pick the coffee we use and creating our espresso blend, standards, training, equipment, etc. My role has morphed a bit over the year. I really enjoy getting to wear a few different hats. I’ve taken on a role of Director of Retail, and running our social media as well. I have a whole training team now so I don’t need to do as much training as I did when I first came on but I’m still in the stores every day, and jump behind bar to work on coffee with the baristas, as well as do coffee education like cuppings and coffee classes.
When did Cherry Street first open?
This will be our 10th cafe location. Our first location on 1st and Cherry was originally a B&O Espresso which my father managed, and it opened in 1992. In 1998 my father purchased that location and that is when the name Cherry Street Coffee House debuted.
And is this the first Cherry Street to open since you’ve come on board?
This will be the first cafe we open with me on staff. I was not as involved with this location’s build-out as I would have liked to because let’s just say life has been pretty busy since I became the US Barista Champion. But I’ve had a lot of say in the design and flow. In the future, we have at least three locations slotted to open in the next two years, and I will be 100% involved from start to finish. Thats the direction I see my role at Cherry Street going.
What signatures/innovations/changes/improvements (if any) did you make on this new cafe?
This new cafe is designed with flow and function in mind which means introducing new equipment that hasn’t been used at other stores, like hot water towers and pitcher rinsers. You have to remember my dad learned coffee in the 90’s, and things have changed a lot since then.
With the addition of food, the typical cafe bar flow doesn’t necessarily work, because the preparation of food takes longer than coffee, so we have to think about it little differently. I wanted to make sure that the baristas job was made easier by keeping everything in close range, and making sure people didn’t have to pass by or around other employees. The space is pretty small so this was extra important.
I think we did a pretty good job of achieving our role. It’s the first cafe build-out I’ve been a part of so I’ve learned a lot and know what to watch out for in the future. There will always be surprises.
Will you be pulling shots at the new store?
I will most definitely be working bar at this store over the next month or so while it’s still getting its footing. New store, new staff—so I will be focusing my energy towards this store. First impressions are very important, especially in a neighborhood with an abundance of coffee shops already. Plus, I really want to get to know this new community that we get to be a part of.
This area of Seattle is rich with coffee shops such as Broadcast, Stumptown, Bauhuas, Victrola and the new Starbucks 20 million dollar roastery concept. Each cafe brings its own unique style. Cherry Street has a large food selection, which really helps us stand out. We have breakfast sandwiches on bagels by Seattle Bagel Bakery (also a Ghambari-owned business, but the next generation) plus house-made sandwiches, soups, and salads.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Cherry Street proudly serves Dillanos Coffee Roasters. We are one of the only cafés in Seattle serving this local roaster, and the first to serve Dillanos new DCR line, coffees that aim at a more specialty, lighter-roasted niche than what you may know from Dillanos. We developed an espresso blend unique to Cherry Street. I worked really closely with Dillanos Director of Coffee Phil Beattie to choose the right coffees for Cherry Street’s clientele, a blend of rich flavored classics with a few more adventurous ones sprinkled in.
Did you work with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
This space is designed by Atelierdorm, a well-known architecture firm in Seattle that designed many of local chef Ethan Stowell‘s famous restaurants. Most of our stores feature a poster wall and this store will be no different. We find that the posters create a unique art piece that feels alive as it changes on a regular basis.
All photos by Vickie Miao for Sprudge.com.