by Alex Garland
In 2010, Jose Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez opened The Station, the couple’s first business venture, in a small storefront in Beacon Hill. After seven years of serving coffee and offering community space in that tiny location, they were able to relocate across the street to a retail space at El Centro de la Raza that was nearly double the size of their original spot and right by the Beacon Hill light rail station. Now, they’re again doubling their size by opening a second location near the Columbia City light rail station.
Moore-Rodriguez spent her teenage years in the Columbia City area, so she has sentimental ties to opening their second business in the neighborhood. “I’m fucking ecstatic to have a business in the area! When I was a kid, I would have never thought to run a business there,” she said. No strangers to the Beacon Hill location, Rodriguez and Moore-Rodriguez expect to be behind the bar at the new spot for at least six months. That level of involvement is part of how they managed to make it through the pandemic: being hands-on owners who were able to take on additional work when two employees left because of health issues.
But working behind the counter was just one factor in adapting to the complex challenges that came with a pandemic and lockdown orders. While they were listed as an essential business, Moore-Rodriguez is hesitant to agree with that designation. “I was happy to be included on the list, but I also knew we didn’t need to be open,” she said. Regardless, The Station kept its doors open, making all drinks to-go, adding new food options to the menu, and selling beer and wine. “We were still getting customers, and people who couldn’t come out would buy gift cards or just donate. That helped keep us up and running as well,” Moore-Rodriguez said.
Even with the indoor space limited to masked staff, Rodriguez and Moore-Rodriguez found ways to support their community. Working with the vice principal of Cleveland High School, Ray Morales, The Station began providing space for a community pantry, a program that had previously been located at the high school, but since COVID-19 had closed Cleveland’s doors, the pantry needed an available location. According to Moore-Rodriguez, this was a boost for business and community. “People would come to donate to the food bank and end up buying coffee, so we were still serving customers. People were grateful we were still open and didn’t close. I have to give it to the community, as per usual. They really showed up and gave us all the support. We were lucky.”
In addition to grants, donations, and government financial assistance, two loyal customers set up a GoFundMe campaign in 2020 and helped raise over $37,000 for The Station to thrive. Now that The Station is seeing similar business to pre-pandemic times, it’s ready to grow. This growth, Rodriguez and Moore-Rodriguez say, is only possible because of the investment they’ve made in their community, and the investment the community has made in return, by supporting Black and Brown businesses like The Station.
Now, the owners’ goal is to encourage this kind of reciprocity at a higher level. Through a GoFundMe campaign Rodriguez created, Rodriguez and Moore-Rodriguez are hoping to offset some of the cost of opening a second location with the support of the nonprofits and businesses they have opened their space for and donated coffee to. While speaking with the Emerald, Rodriguez emphasized that their request for funds isn’t for the community that already supports their business through buying coffee, but for those large businesses and organizations The Station has supported.
Rodriguez said, “There’s a lot of people with money, and I think that a great way for the city to show their support to Black and Brown people is money. I believe that everybody in this city wants to say that they’re not racist and that they’re very progressive, but words are easy; show me with action.”
Additionally, Rodriguez believes the City could show it values Black and Brown businesses by fast-tracking some of the permitting processes to “make it easier for us to open the doors.”
While Rodriguez loves creating jobs for the community, his ability to manage staff tops out around 20 people, so further expansion is unlikely. But those who know Rodriguez know it’s not just about the business, but also about creating community space. “I want this new location to have artists and vendors, to have community events, to be a space that people see from the train and want to check out,” he said.
Having shared the new location’s renderings with the Emerald, Rodriguez shows that the new location will be similar, but bigger and with a stage, opening the space to many kinds of community engagement that are not possible in the Beacon Hill location. Additionally, the Columbia City location will have significantly more outdoor seating options as well as two bathrooms.
With the opening of their second space, Rodriguez and Moore-Rodriguez will be offering the people of Seattle another option for the “third space,” or a gathering space outside of their workplaces and homes, where folks can commune and sip that warm bean brew.
Support The Station’s new space through its GoFundMe campaign.
This series is supported by the City of Seattle’s Generational Wealth Initiative. The South Seattle Emerald and its contributors maintain full editorial control over all its coverage.
Alex Garland is a photojournalist and reporter. Follow him on Twitter.
📸 Featured Image: The Station co-owners Jose Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez stand in front of the upcoming Columbia City location. (Photo: Alex Garland)
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!