Cool news out of Seattle, Washington today as our longtime friends & partners at La Marzocco are embarking on a new project: the La Marzocco Showroom at KEXP Radio’s new home in Seattle Center. Slated to open in April 2016, the much-buzzed about KEXP project will feature restaurants, community spaces, and this one-of-a-kind new espresso zone built and curated by La Marzocco. LM’s space will feature a “café serving the public, rotating exhibits, community events, programming for home coffee enthusiasts, and more,” as per La Marzocco Marketing Director Whitney Cornell. But don’t call it a cafe—or at least, not *just* a cafe.
In part devoted to La Marzocco’s long history in Seattle, the showroom will be home to an astounding collection of vintage espresso machines and coffee gear. But it’s the cafe program that really has us drooling, as plans call for a unique “partners in residence” program featuring coffee companies from around the world, each selected for one-month residencies. LM staff will help execute the program under the guidance of Amy Hattemer, a longtime Joe Coffee cafe manager in New York City and Philadelphia, who was hired for the role earlier in 2015.
For our readers unfamiliar with KEXP, it is a cultural dynamo in Seattle, and much more than a radio station, although they’re one of the world’s best ones of those, too. Their new home in Seattle Center has been much hotly anticipated, and you can learn more about that project here.
But for our purposes let’s hone in on the LM showroom project. To learn more we spoke with Cornell and Hattemer from the La Marzocco HQ in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Hello Whitney Cornell and Amy Hattemer! Give us a 500-ft overview of this project, the La Marzocco Showroom.
Whitney Cornell: The La Marzocco Showroom is truly something that will encompass La Marzocco’s heritage and our history, but then also try and be a point of learning for coffee—a place of learning and discovery. It will be offering cafe service; it will be open to the public; it will be an amenity within KEXP’s new home. We anticipate that our new customers will include Seattle folks in Lower Queen Anne but also people who are in the coffee industry who seek out this place as a destination.
We’re planning for the space to have a big focus on education, including a series of classes offered around some of our La Marzocco Home products, like the GS3 and Linea Mini. But it’s more than just training; we want to create an experiential destination for discovery and exploration when it comes to coffee.
This aligns so well with what KEXP is trying to achieve in their new home space, which will be a hub for discovery and artistry around music. We’re meeting them at the same place when it comes to coffee.
Please tell us more about the physical space—where will it be located in the complex? Whom are you working with to collaborate on design?
Whitney Cornell: It’ll be within KEXP’s new home, and designed to be highly interactive with that space. The KEXP team took cues from the Ace Hotel in New York to create this gathering space, to create an environment where dividing lines are blurred, and made intentionally unclear. Guests will have a moment of thinking, “Am I in the cafe? In the record store? The restaurant?” It’ll be an open and dynamic space.
Can you share with us more about whom those restaurant and record store tenants will be?
Whitney Cornell: Not at this time, but the record store & restaurant are both very well-known Seattle-based proprietors people will be excited to hear about.
What coffee will you be serving in your space? What will be some of the space’s unique features?
Whitney Cornell: This is one of the elements we’re most excited about. We’re a company that builds and manufactures espresso machines, but at our core what we’re most proud of is that we feel we’ve created a platform for expression for people to tell their coffee story. We want this to be an extension of that.
To that end, we’ll have what we’re calling a “partners in residence” program, in which coffee purveyors that are our partners across the US and around the world, they can come in and curate the space to represent their own program. This program will have a window of 2-4 weeks for each guest. The details are still being worked out, but the idea is that the partner will come in and present to our staff the way that they’d like their coffee to be prepared and presented, and to develop a menu that will be served for the period of their residence. Our staff will work with those partners, who will also be invited to stay with us for the duration of their residency, serving alongside our trained staff who are capable of executing their vision. In terms of equipment, the partner in residence can choose the equipment they would like to have used from our portfolio.
Also, we do hope to use this destination and experience as a place where we can also showcase our extensive collection of antique and historic espresso machines. We have access to an extensive collection both here in Italy and in the United States; we’ve kept everything in storage up until now, and this project will be an incredible opportunity to showcase these machines and their place in history.
This collection is a historic look at the development of espresso coffee. We’re talking about hundreds of historic machines in our Seattle collection alone, many of which are part of the personal collection of Kent Bakke. In addition, when our factory in Italy moved locations in 2008, we uncovered extensive original drawings of espresso machines and custom coffee bars drawn by Giuseppe Bambi, one of the company’s founders, and Piero Bambi, Giuseppe’s son, who took over design responsibilities from his father. The archives have since been preserved and catalogued and we hope to bring over some curated exhibits that will put that history on display in KEXP.
Please tell us more about the designer you’re working with for this project.
Whitney Cornell: We’re working with SKB, a local firm, and they’re doing all the design for the entire KEXP new home—we’re finding that they’re super talented and great to work with, but they’re also approaching the project from the perspective of trying to tell the La Marzocco story while making it cohesive within the rest of the space. That’s ideal for us and fits how we’re planning to make the space come to life.
I feel the million dollar question is perhaps: how is this not just a cafe?
Whitney Cornell: If there’s one thing we want to communicate, it’s that this is so much more than a cafe. We are committed as a company to the forward movement of espresso coffee and coffee culture. We have a long history in the United States, and here in Seattle especially, and in some ways we’re all just trying to figure out: what is coffee today? What has it been over history? We want to play a roll in moving that forward for our community in Seattle and for the people who come and see us from all over the world.
I will again emphasize, we want this space to be a platform for learning. A place where we hope people who are not familiar with coffee will come in and understand coffee a little bit more. We also hope that it can serve as a great platform for our partners to come in and showcase what they’re doing. Those partners will be joining us from across the United States and from other countries as well.
Whom will some of the initial residency partners will be?
Whitney Cornell: We’re still working on details for whom those launch partners will be, but we’ll confirm when we get closer, and we’ll share when we know.
What’s opening day?
Whitney Cornell: The target opening date for the whole KEXP new home is on Record Store Day in 2016, which is April 16th—this coincides with SCAA Expo in Atlanta.
In addition to featuring those partners, will you be selling their coffees as retail? Will this mean Seattleites will have access to rare coffees roasted in other parts of the world?
Whitney Cornell: We’re still firming up details for what retail will look like, but I’m confident there will be some retail beyond just coffee service. It’ll be a destination for La Marzocco Home’s product line. The KEXP space will be consumer facing, and our showroom and lab in Ballard will continue operating as a kind of lab, catering more to commercial business. We will be offering demos and retail in the KEXP space. and the partners in residence will also be able to use the space to conduct their own workshops, cuppings, meet and greets, and learning labs. Details are still being developed but to be sure, we want this space to be a home for activity and engagement in a lot of different ways.
Amy Hattemer: We will have an in-house team of baristas who will work the bar, but each month our Partners in Residence will help design a menu for their coffee. Curation will be from the selection of beans to the actual items served on the menu. Yes, beans from the Partner in Residence will be sold, and this will be a platform for the Partner to tell their story while they are in residence. This can be in the form of classes/lectures/experiments held at the La Marzocco showroom or more in the form of an exhibit on their company. This will be a platform for expression for each Partner. We are in the process of scheduling what the residencies will look like in the first year. Keep an eye out for upcoming news!
What else do you want folks to know about this project?
Whitney Cornell: The only other thing I would add is—there’s this funny parallel between the development of KEXP and La Marzocco USA. When we first heard about this project, Joe Monaghan and Kent Bakke were particularly interested because when they started importing La Marzocco into the USA, the music they were listening to in the van was a KEXP predecessor, KCMU. KEXP has been a soundtrack to our development in the US. There’s an emotional and historical link to this project that’s very personal for our leadership team.
Amy Hattemer: I think a good statement for what we are trying to do, is to say that La Marzocco is more than just a company that builds and sells espresso coffee equipment. We pride ourselves on having built a platform from which a vibrant global community has sprung. We are humbled to observe and participate in this community, and anticipate that the La Marzocco showroom at KEXP will serve as a gathering point and a destination for visitors–coffee professionals, and coffee enthusiasts–from around the country and the world. We’re committed to ensuring that the experience articulates our past, but invites and inspires people to participate in the future of coffee.
Correction: An earlier version of this feature misidentified La Marzocco’s new project as a “showcase”; it is in fact the La Marzocco Showroom at KEXP.