by Marti McKenna
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include information about a GoFundMe fund benefitting The Station.
For 10 years, Beacon Hill coffee and community hub The Station has been known to many in the South End as a place to get great coffee and snacks, meet friends, work, and hold community discussions. In that way, it’s like a lot of small, neighborhood cafes, though The Station has been a particular haven for People of Color and the space itself is a vehicle for activism on behalf of marginalized people. Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez have created an entity in The Station that extends beyond its walls and into the community itself. And now they’re turning to the community they’ve helped and asking for help to stay open.
In a Facebook post, Luis Rodriguez shared this:
“The Station has the best supporting community any business can ask for! We have been a very resistant and resilient business from day one. We have fed and clothe our marginalized community. We have been an essential business for our neighborhood and we kept our doors open to keep creating jobs for our employees!”
But eight months of COVID pandemia have “taken a toll,” Luis says. The business is running short on resources and the owners confess to being afraid that they’ll join the growing list of businesses — especially those owned by People of Color — that are facing closure or have already closed.
The Station opened in 2010 in a tiny storefront around the corner from their current location. The original space held half a dozen tables which, on any given morning, were populated by neighbors visiting and exchanging news and laughs. Stickers bearing political slogans adorned the coffee grinder and espresso machines. At one point, the coffee shop also moonlighted as a wine and cheese bar, The Wine Station (today, Wine Station pop-ups still happen in the new space). And The Station’s annual Block Party drew performers and attendees from all over the Pacific Northwest.
In February of 2017, the business moved to the newly built retail space at the southwest corner of Plaza Roberto Maestas — directly across the street from The Station’s namesake, the Beacon Hill Link light rail station — and nearly doubled their square footage. Still, they never had any trouble keeping the seats filled and the coffee flowing. More importantly, when the community needed help, Luis and Leona were always there. After Charleena Lyles was murdered by Seattle Police officers in 2017, The Station asked for donations of needed supplies for her children, and the community responded, filling a large section of the cafe with diapers, clothing, and food. And early in the COVID pandemic, The Station served as a free food pantry in partnership with Cleveland High School, taking donations and providing food to neighbors who needed it. Today, a mini-pantry stands outside the entrance. And many times over the years, the owners have stepped up to organize help for individuals in the community who fell on hard times.
“Anyone who looks out for my family, my children, my employees … you’re my beloved community — period,” said Leona in a video profile from El Centro de la Raza. “And you know, we’re going to do the same for you in the best way that we can.”
“Without community, without family, without neighbors, without friends, I don’t know what we are, then,” added Luis. “… we need each other.”
This year, Luis and Leona’s contributions to their community were recognized by El Centro de la Raza with their 2020 Roberto Maestas Legacy Award.
“Luis and Leona live community activism and advocacy. They open their doors to serve as informal headquarters for many community meetings and as an event space, such as block parties, fundraisers for victims of violence, and youth poetry writing workshops. … Luis and Leona stand up for the community when they witness injustices and open their ‘home’ to anyone who needs it.” —El Centro de la Raza
The Station is taking donations on their website. You can also stop by and give them your business. They not only serve delicious coffee — see their new fall drink menu — they also serve fresh-made breakfast sandwiches, house-favorite “biscuits-n-chorizo gravy,” and more, plus hearty sandwiches for lunch. And The Station is still in the wine business! A variety of bottles are always available. They also sell t-shirts — Station-branded as well as those made by community members and groups — and they’re currently selling face masks.
For Luis and Leona and so many in the South End, The Station is home. It’s a living testament to the success of their mission:
“We are home to artists of all disciplines, youth workers and advocates, elders and children, up and coming and seasoned activists —
“You too, can call The Station, home.”
UPDATE: A GoFundMe has been established to benefit The Station. You can donate here.
Marti McKenna is a writer/editor living in Beacon Hill.
Featured image by Zion Thomas.
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