This article was originally published on Southend Seattle and is reprinted with permission.
By Kate Clark
The story behind Redwing Cafe’s name brings to mind the “Cheers” theme song, “Where everybody knows your name.” Anthony Campbell, co-owner of Rainier Beach’s new coffee spot, said the name comes from the town, Redwing, Minnesota, where his grandparents lived. “It was always a warm and welcoming place to go, where someone was always happy to see you. That is kind of the feeling I wanted for this place,” Anthony said.
At Redwing Cafe a 12-ounce drip coffee is $2 and a scone to accompany it is $2.50. The cafe also makes several vegan and gluten free pastries and has the best hot chocolate in the world, according to co-owner Su Harambe.
Since opening in mid-November to a very warm welcome from the Su and Anthony’s friends and neighbors, word of the cafe has spread. “For that first week we knew everyone that came through the door, and now I will come in and I don’t know anyone in the restaurant,” Su said.
“Like those guys,” she points to a pair of women sitting near the entrance, “I’ve never seen them before.” Then she points to another pair toward the back of the medium-sized café, “But those guys, those guys are our friends.”
Local graphic designer Jay Bryant said the café has become a Rainier Beach hub. “The neighborhood was hungry for a place like this,” he said.
Su and Anthony decided two years ago to open the cafe. To prepare, the couple transformed the first floor of their local home into a little café as a sort of practice run, so Anthony, a former carpenter, could learn the basics of baking.
Anthony taught himself to make everything–from the vegan and gluten-free oatmeal raisin cookies to the crowd-pleasing sticky buns and quiche. He said he sought a change of career. The substantial remodel of the building that is now Redwing Cafe was his last construction project.
The details of Redwing reveal care and meticulousness in design. The tables were carved by Su’s son, Shawn Herzog, from a maple tree that once lived in the couple’s backyard. The intricate metal-work hidden in the soon to open basement was welded by a close friend. And, several paintings by local artists decorate the first floor. Since community is incredibly important to both Su and Anthony, Bryant explained, “There are little pieces of a lot of people in here. It’s pretty amazing that way.”
Su, who is a realtor full-time, said she chose to live in Rainier Beach because of its unique qualities. “It’s very unusual,” she said. “It’s so cohesive, people really know each other, they go out of their way to get to know each other.”
Despite the cohesiveness, Su and Anthony say there’s a lack of community-gathering places. “We wanted a place to hang out and eat in the neighborhood and no one else was doing it,” Anthony said.
Jay Bryant and his wife Anne – both owners of design companies (Purpose & Co. and Anne Bryant Creative, respectively) – were enlisted to help early on. The couple, which has lived in Rainier Beach since 2006 and have known Anthony and Su for most of that time, designed the logo and menus, and Jay painted the giant bird on the side of the building.
The Bryants were happy to help. Jay says he is devoted to the Rainier Beach neighborhood. “Once you stake your claim to the neighborhood you are more invested in having it be a place you want to live, and be a part of it,” he said. “All of us aging hipsters have moved down here because we can afford it. The neighborhood has very creative people.”
The cafe can be found on 9272 57th Avenue South. It’s easy to spot, just look for the giant bird, which will, if it doesn’t already, characterize the establishment. The black and red bird stands tall with a speech bubble reading “earth food for earth people,” a phrase Su remembered from her days working at a food co-op in in the 1970s. She says all the hippies know what it means.
“The bird is like a beacon–it just tells people something cool is going to happen here,” Su said.
Redwing Cafe hours:
Saturday – Sunday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuesday – Friday: 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/redwingcafe