INTENTIONALIST: Spotlight on the Central District

by Kristina Rivera

Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters

The pandemic has taken its toll on small businesses everywhere, but minority-owned and Black-owned businesses have been hit the hardest. That’s why Intentionalist is working with The Central Area Collaborative — an organization dedicated to preserving the cultural and economic vitality of the Central District — to support small businesses in the neighborhood.

Throughout the month of February, gift certificates (up to $100) from participating Central District businesses will be 20 percent off, underwritten by the Central Area Collaborative. Intentionalist doesn’t charge commission fees so all gift certificate sales fully benefit local businesses.

“We know that our businesses have sustained tremendous losses during the pandemic,” said Central Area Collaborative Program Manager Dennis Comer. “If we want to retain the Central Districts’s commercial vitality, it’s more important now than ever before to support our neighborhood economy. The Central Area Collaborative’s hope is that as many people as possible show support to our local, BIPOC-owned small businesses by taking advantage of the gift certificate discounts that we are offering in partnership with Intentionalist. It’s a win-win for everyone —your dollar goes a little further and the businesses get much needed revenue.”

Together, our goal is to drive additional support for small businesses in the Central Area, including the three amazing businesses we’re spotlighting this week: Union Coffee, Fat’s Chicken & Waffles, and Taste of the Caribbean. 

Geetu Vailoor, owner of Union Coffee. (Photo courtesy of Union Coffee)

Union Coffee

Up to a few months before becoming the owner of Union Coffee, Geetu Vailoor never thought she’d run her own business. But when Union Coffee’s previous owner approached her with an offer to take over the specialty coffee shop, Geetu saw the potential to create a space she wanted to see as a long-time worker in the coffee industry — one that was accessible, safe, innovative, exciting, and where she could use her voice as a queer woman of color. Despite taking over the cafe in February 2020 as the pandemic started, Geetu has made it a place for the community to be heard, feel safe, and get a great cup of coffee. One of Geetu’s favorite parts about running Union Coffee is being a platform for other small businesses — every weekend they host pop-ups with different businesses across Seattle.

Geetu’s favorite drink at Union Coffee is their rosemary maple latte, and her favorite food is the eggplant and potato “samosanada” (a delicious pastry hybrid between samosas and empanadas) made by Karachi Cowboys. Fun fact: She worked with Karachi Cowboys owner Nasir Zubair to create this flavor using her mom’s recipe.

“I’m a Southerner, I’m from Georgia, and I’m used to living in small towns, and something about the Central District I love is honestly the warmth of the community… I remember at the beginning [of the pandemic] people were making face masks and handing them out for free. I feel like that’s an identity that’s unique to the Central District. We’re very thoughtful about our community, and it’s been really nice to serve these people, our neighbors, and this neighborhood. It’s been fun to be invited in this neighborhood as well.” — Geetu Vailoor

Erika White, Fat’s Chicken & Waffles co-owner and general manager, inside her restaurant. (photo: Intentionalist)

Fat’s Chicken & Waffles

Fat’s Chicken & Waffles has become a Central District gem since it opened in 2015 for — of course — their signature chicken and waffles. But what keeps people coming back is the comforting, homey atmosphere co-owner and general manager Erika White and her staff have created. Erika grew up in the Central District. She went to Garfield High School and used to eat in the same space Fat’s Chicken & Waffles would eventually be located, so she was ready when her business partner and co-owner Marcus Lalario opened their New Orleans-influenced fried chicken and soul food restaurant. Though the pandemic has put a pause on indoor dining, Erika still makes sure to go out of her way to connect and talk safely with her customers as much as she can.

Erika’s favorite dishes at Fat’s are their honey butter chicken biscuit sandwich (which Erika warns is extremely addictive) and the fried catfish, which pays homage to the Central District landmark Catfish Corner.

“To be able to have conversations with people and give them a little history of an area that I reside in and grew up in, it feels good because it was something as a youth that I saw when [the Central District] was just all Black. And to be a Black person and to have a business in an area I grew up in, it feels good. It’s like bringing back some of the history that was missing.” — Erika White

Taste of the Caribbean owners Carlene Comrie (left) and Dwayne Blake (right) in front of the restaurant’s mural. (Photo courtesy of Taste of the Caribbean)

Taste of the Caribbean

At Taste of the Caribbean, owners Carlene Comrie and Dwayne Blake give the Central District an authentic taste of Jamaica and its vibrant culture. Carlene partnered with Dwayne in 2013 to open Taste of the Caribbean because they wanted to open a restaurant that celebrated their Jamaican heritage. Taste of the Caribbean showcases Jamaican culture in many ways from the relaxed and stress-free atmosphere to lively music and soul-comforting food. Carlene said her vision was to create a hub that weaves the Caribbean community together and gives people a sense of what it’s like to sit in your grandma’s kitchen in Jamaica. Even without indoor dining, you can still order takeout for a taste of the Caribbean.

If you’re a pork lover like Carlene, try her favorite dish, jerk pork — a tender cut of pork belly generously seasoned with jerk spice, which she describes as “heaven on earth.” The restaurant serves other Jamaican classics, like oxtail, curried goat, jerk wings, and more.

“Caribbean culture is ‘out of many, one people,’ especially in Jamaica — that’s our motto. For us, it’s having a place in the Central District where we can bring everyone together from the Caribbean, from Africa, from the Americas and just enjoy each other and vibe through music and food.” — Carlene Comrie

Kristina Rivera is the marketing and communications coordinator at Intentionalist. She graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in journalism and public relations and has worked with organizations ranging from local nonprofits to global PR firms.

Featured image: A plate of brown stew chicken with a side of rice and peas from Taste of the Caribbean with paired with their Dark and Stormy cocktail. (Photo courtesy of Taste of the Caribbean)

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