by Ronnie Estoque
Chen Dien, owner of Coffeeholic House in Columbia City, knew something was wrong when he received a phone call from his mom last Saturday morning notifying him that the store’s front door had been opened before the business day had begun.
“My heart just dropped,” Dien said. “The key box was destroyed and the key inside was gone. The cash drawer was broken, and all the money was gone.”
Surveillance camera footage of the 30-second robbery was posted on Coffeeholic’s Instagram last Sunday. The store safe was also taken during the crime, with about three hundred dollars in total stolen. Dien believes that the two robbers are experienced due to the lack of noise made during the crime and the fact that the store didn’t experience significant physical damage..
Dien often stays late to prep and start the drip for his Vietnamese coffee since it takes a while to complete. Since the robbery, he has become more concerned for his own safety as well as his employees.
“I don’t feel safe because when I look at the video, my instant thought is: how they can know the setup of the store so well?” Dien said.
While community members have asked Dien about ways to financially support the store to make up for the stolen money, he is most concerned about the welfare of nearby businesses. He advises other small business owners in the area to be more careful so that future robberies can be prevented through community awareness.
Dien immigrated to the United States from Vietnam and had a joint vision with his wife to introduce coffee from his culture to Columbia City. He had noticed that there were many Starbucks and other American coffee brands across the city, but he wanted to open a shop that made Vietnamese coffee to showcase its unique flavor. Dien opened his business right after Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March due to COVID-19, but even so, his business has grown steadily with an influx of regular customers from the local community.
“We started Coffeeholic House to showcase the Vietnamese coffee culture to all people,” Dien said.
Danielle Malig recently visited Coffeeholic House and purchased their Coconut Coffee and believes that Dien has done an excellent job of highlighting the Asian flavors unique to Vietnamese culture.
“They offer something that coffee lovers would appreciate and find exciting,” Malig said. “Their staff was also incredibly friendly and took their time with each customer.”
She was upset when she heard about the robbery that had taken place last Saturday, and emphasized the importance of supporting small, locally owned immigrant businesses that are experiencing the additional economic stress stemming from COVID-19. Malig believes establishments such as Coffeeholic House go the extra mile of investing into customers because they have a deep care for the local community.
“I posted on my Instagram a few weeks ago that my best day all year started with Coffeeholic House, like their coffee makes a real difference for people,” Malig said.
Coffeeholic House is currently offering take-out orders, with no indoor dining options due to COVID-19 restrictions. Last Friday, Coffeeholic released their new and improved ube latte, called the Purple Haze. Customers can order this drink and other Vietnamese coffee drinks online and pick up their orders through a contactless process.
“We have a lot of regular customers, so that’s what makes us feel motivated every day to see them, serve them, make them happy, and live with our passion,” Dien said excitedly.
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based reporter. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter account @RonnieEstoque.
Featured image by Ronnie Estoque.