Photo depicting a exterior shop window with a sign that reads, "Black Coffee Northwest."

Black Coffee Northwest Comes to the Central District

The Black-owned coffee shop will take over the old Starbucks space later this fall.

by Jas Keimig

After almost a year without the comforting smell of coffee and buzzing community connections, the corner of South Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue will finally be home to a coffee spot once again. Last week, Shoreline’s Black Coffee Northwest (BCNW) announced that it would be expanding to the Central District in fall, into the Vulcan Real Estate building formerly occupied by Starbucks. For the Black family-owned coffee shop, which has been slinging espresso on Aurora Avenue since 2020, this acquisition is a major step forward.

“I don’t have the words to describe it. It’s full circle for me. Being born and raised in Seattle, it is representation that anyone that has a dream can actually go for it,” said BCNW co-owner Darnesha Weary. ”We’re a family and small business with big dreams. We’re really honored to be a part of this community.”

“We are excited to welcome Black Coffee to the neighborhood,” said Geralyn Vannoy, Vulcan Real Estate commercial marketing and leasing director, in a press release. “They are exactly the kind of tenant we hoped to find, not just a great coffee shop but also a safe and welcoming space for the community to gather.”

In addition to coffee, Black Coffee Northwest is planning on bringing after-school programs and youth internship programs to its future spot at 23rd Avenue and South Jackson Street. (Photo: Jas Keimig)

BCNW’s arrival in the Central District represents a wave of Black-owned businesses repopulating the 23rd and Jackson corridor in the historically Black neighborhood. Simply Soulful, Jackson’s Catfish Corner, and 23rd Ave Brewery have all taken up residence on the city block, forming a strong, supportive community that BCNW says it is excited to join. “The community businesses are welcoming us with open arms because there’s a level of trust there. They know who we are, they know who our family is,” said Weary.

Originally, Starbucks set up shop on the busy corner in 1998 as part of an array of stores opened in collaboration with former NBA player Earvin “Magic” Johnson as a way to serve Black and Brown communities in the United States. Before its closure, the Starbucks was a popular community hub, but in August 2022, Starbucks vacated the 23rd Avenue and Jackson location, citing “safety concerns.” When Weary got word of the news, she decided to act. 

“That space has been a big part of the Black community and for our family as well, we used to frequent there often. I literally posted a Facebook post and I was like, ‘I want that space,’” said Weary. “Someone put us in contact with Vulcan, who put us in contact with a real estate broker, and it took about a year. We always had plans to expand, and there’s no other place that we would want to have.”

Darnesha Weary, co-owner of Black Coffee Northwest. (Photo courtesy of Black Coffee Northwest.)

With the Central District spot, BCNW plans to do so much more than just serve coffee. Located next to several schools, it plans to provide free after-school programming and leadership opportunities, including internships, a podcast studio program, tutoring, music, job training, a Black vendor marketplace, and other community-focused events. Overall, it hopes to build a space that invigorates the corner and provides a safe, relaxed environment for kids and adults alike. As part of that effort, BCNW is asking for community donations to help raise funds for making the new space the best it can be. 

“We always imagined [BCNW] to be a place where there are conversations that are happening that are important. If there are things that are going on in the community and people need a space to meet at a place, a catalyst for change, [we’re a] safe place for you,” said Weary. “We’re very aware of the gun violence that’s going on in that area … but we believe that our positive intentionality to bring the community back together is going to eventually bring change.” 

As reported by The Seattle Times, Black Coffee Northwest is in a dispute with its Shoreline landlord, Bethany Community Church, which sued the coffee shop last month for over $22,000 in unpaid rent. Weary said their landlord situation up north is “not great.” While they’d like to keep their original location and the Central District location, they are “not quite sure what’s going to happen to that sister location yet,” Weary told the Emerald. “We plan to stay there, but we can’t say that for sure.”

Black Coffee Northwest launched in Shoreline in 2020, but co-owner Darnesha Weary said expanding to a Central District location has been a full-circle moment. (Photo courtesy of Black Coffee Northwest.)

Jas Keimig is a writer and critic based in Seattle. They previously worked on staff at The Stranger, covering visual art, film, music, and stickers. Their work has also appeared in Crosscut, South Seattle Emerald, i-D, Netflix, and The Ticket. They also co-write Unstreamable for Scarecrow Video, a column and screening series highlighting films you can’t find on streaming services. They won a game show once.

📸 Featured Image: Black Coffee Northwest is coming soon to the corner of 23rd Avenue and South Jackson Street. (Photo: Jas Keimig)

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