by Jax Kiel
There’s nothing not to love about small businesses in Seattle, but this August let’s explore the rest of King County and the small businesses that are just a bus or car ride away.
King County has a population of approximately 2.2 million people — and tens of thousands of businesses — but only about a third of County residents live in Seattle. While the vibrant small businesses in Seattle bring light to lives and communities, it’s important not to forget about those beyond the city.
As in Seattle, the small businesses in wider King County are the lifelines, backbones, and safe spaces of their individual communities. This August, explore King County and these Black-owned businesses in Kent, Renton, and Federal Way.
Nana’s Southern Kitchen
Todd Minor opened Nana’s Southern Kitchen because he missed his family. When he moved to the Puget Sound for work, he loved the area but was homesick for family and the food staples in his community. Nana’s Southern Kitchen is Todd’s way of both paying homage to his great-grandmother’s legacy and creating opportunities for people in his family to move out to the West Coast and start a new life. His goal is to personify his great-grandmother’s unquestionable love for and openness to people. He says everyone was a grandchild to her and she served food to bring people together.
The connection to Todd’s great-grandmother means the food at Nana’s Southern Kitchen is more than just food for Todd and his family. While they serve delicious catfish, pork chops, chicken, and shrimp, their goal is to create an emotional connection with your family. The recipes Todd and his team use have been in his family for the better part of a century. Todd eats the fried shrimp and potato salad almost every day. The shrimp has just the right amount of batter and the potato salad is just like his great-grandmother used to make it.
“To see people from all different communities and backgrounds experience my great-grandmother’s take on Southern food, there’s something that’s really, really special about it. It’s something that gives me a ton of energy for all these different communities, backgrounds, and families to find something that they connect with.”— Todd Minor
Boon Boona Coffee
When Efrem Fesaha was in the process of opening Boon Boona Coffee, he wanted his café to take a more intentional approach to the drink. He’s inspired by the traditional Eritrean and Ethiopian approach to coffee, and he wants to educate his customers on coffee’s true history, which started in Ethiopia. Boon Boona Coffee aims to change the Euro-centric narrative of coffee and support sustainable East African coffee farmers. Pre-pandemic lockdown, Boon Boona hosted traditional coffee ceremonies — just one of the ways Efrem created a more custom, unique, and in-depth coffee experience.
At Efrem’s café, customers can find drinks they are familiar with, like espressos, cappuccinos, and more, made with coffee beans all sourced from Africa. While Efrem says it can be limiting getting coffee only from Africa — many roasters carry coffee from around the world — the result is a fruity coffee, full of flavor. A self-described coffee nerd, Efrem has a trifecta of favorite drinks from Boon Boona: espresso, cortado, and black drip coffee. But he said the most popular drink on his menu right now is the orange blossom latte.
“Often the narrative of coffee is that it started in Italy or something like that, but that’s not the case. Coffee originated out of Ethiopia. The word ‘coffee’ itself comes from a village in Ethiopia called Kaffa. That’s the birthplace of coffee, and so [I’m] just trying to control the narrative and change it, put more of a spotlight on the positive stuff. That’s really why I started.”— Efrem Fesaha
Derrick and Eleanor Ellis met in corporate America. Derrick fell in love with Eleanor and the lumpias that Eleanor would bring in to work. He noticed that everyone else seemed to love the lumpias as much as he did and figured there was a market for them. With $500 in savings, a wish to share what he called Eleanor’s God-given gift and their cultural roots, the goal of teaching their kids entrepreneurship, and some old equipment, the couple started Lumpia World. Their mission statement says they don’t have customers, they have family. They want everyone who visits to feel like Lumpia World is an extension of their kitchen.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lumpia World had to cut some of the non-lumpia dishes from the menu. Derrick said customers were sad to see some of the items go, but it’s allowed them to focus on what they want to do as a business. True to the name “Lumpia World,” their goal is to be like the 31 flavors of lumpia. He recommends the L-Dub plate, which lets customers mix and match different flavors of lumpia and sides. His personal order? Three lemongrass chicken lumpia, four vegetarian lumpia, and a mix of the island mac and veggie pancit sides that he calls “mac-cit.”
“A lot of people celebrate food, but if you have a crappy experience, you may start to question that. We want to give you great service and amazing food at a great price. We want you to look at that plate and be like, ‘Man, that’s a lot of food,’ you know what I mean? So that [celebration of food] often copies the aspects of family and love. We never want it to be transactional. It’s all about love and the food because we truly are blessed to be in this position to do what we do.”— Derrick Ellis
Jax Kiel is a student journalist at Western Washington University and an intern at Intentionalist.
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