by Marti McKenna
When Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez put out a call for help on Oct. 13, they knew their community would answer that call. But they couldn’t have imagined all the ways their neighbors would rise to the occasion. A few days later, the GoFundMe a friend and customer set up for them has raised over $25,000, and members of the community have found a host of creative ways to help keep their favorite coffee shop from closing.
It wasn’t easy for Luis and Leona to ask for the help they needed. “For me it was humbling, a little embarrassing,” Luis told the Emerald. “To have to ask to your community like, ‘Yo, we’re struggling, we’re going through some rough times, we need your help, we need your money, we need people to donate …’”
“It was a little hard to ask for help,” Leona agreed, “but at the same time, I know we have a beautiful community that’s willing to stick their necks out and help those in need. And we just happen to be one of those businesses, like so many other businesses in Seattle, struggling through COVID.”
Anthony Potter launched the GoFundMe to benefit The Station. He told the Emerald that he and his husband, Christopher Peguero (former candidate for City Council), have known Luis and Leona for about 10 years — since around the time The Station opened in its original location.
According to Christopher, “The Station was the first place in Seattle I ever felt at home.”
“We imagine that many others feel this same sentiment about The Station,” Anthony said. “We are a queer, multiracial family with two adopted kids and have always felt at home at The Station — and Luis and Leona are very much extensions of our Seattle family.”
Anthony said he and Christopher saw Luis’s Facebook post asking for community assistance to help The Station stay in business and felt moved to act because The Station is important to them and to the neighborhood. “Luis, Leona, and The Station are anchors for the Beacon Hill community at large,” Anthony said. “We acted because The Station shares our values and we recognize it will be a needed connection point as South/Southeast Seattle recovers from this pandemic.”
Contributors to the GoFundMe had similar praise for The Station. A donor calling themselves “Princess C” donated $300 because “These guys changed my life and I know I am not alone. They are true creators of community.” Donor William Mempa said, “There’s been multiple times in the past when I was short on money or didn’t have cash at all and The Station never let me leave with [an] empty cup.”
The fundraiser collected well over $15,000 in three days, and as of this writing, is up to $26,000 and change. “We are completely blown away from the response,” Anthony said.
Community members have risen to the occasion in other ways as well. Artist Jake Prendez donated prints of his works, which you can pick up at The Station for $20 a piece. Mutual Aid Books held a pop-up book sale and donated proceeds to The Station. And local ice cream maker Kryse is donating ice cream proceeds (customers can order online and pick up at The Station on Sundays, 1–3 p.m.).
Not everyone was thrilled to help; in fact, one Seattle Facebook group made a point of posting a screenshot of the GoFundMe page, telling their followers they don’t support The Station due to the fact that the cafe employs someone they don’t like — an act that resulted in the owners getting harassed by the group’s followers. In a Facebook post, Leona said it was her first time being bullied on social media. “It’s mad corny for adults to behave this way!” she said.
But aside from the vitriol, the group’s efforts served mainly to boost the fundraiser. Allies of The Station leveraged the group’s negative posting to let friends and neighbors know what Luis and Leona are up against and encouraged them to donate to save their favorite coffee shop.
Beacon Hill neighbor Alli Chinn-Tupper told her network in a Facebook post, “… a hate group is targeting our friends’ business. They are trying to sabotage the fundraiser for The Station and trying to tell people to not give them business over petty BS.” She said The Station’s owners “have done nothing but help the community and neighborhood when the pandemic hit. They stayed open and helped the community by having a food and essentials drive … They also give back to the community numerous times.” She closed by telling her friends and neighbors to support The Station.
Leona and Luis say the community’s response has given them hope. “I imagined it would be the same as it was when COVID first happened. A lot of the community members would come in and buy tons of gift certificates … dropping a $20 in the tip cup and buying a gift certificate for someone who needed it. And that’s all I was thinking — I didn’t realize it would blow up to this extent,” Leona said. “And it’s beautiful, and it reinforces the faith I’ve always had in this community — it just reinforced it times a million.”
In addition to donations to the GoFundMe, neighbors can support The Station by purchasing gift certificates, t-shirts, mugs, candles, coffee beans, and more — or by simply stopping by for a cup of coffee.
Anthony Potter and Christopher Peguero said that while the response to their fundraiser has been “stunning,” it’s a testament to the impact The Station has had on the community.
“The Station has always given to those in need, fought for justice and equity — and has never asked for help,” Anthony said. Now that Luis and Leona have reached out in their time of need, it’s clear that the community will rise up and fight to make sure this beloved business stays open. In a Facebook post promoting the GoFundMe, Christopher Peguero likely spoke for many South End neighbors with these words:
“I literally cannot imagine Beacon Hill, Seattle without this coffee house.”
Marti McKenna is a writer/editor living in Beacon Hill.
Featured image by Alex Garland.