At the end of February, Muse Coffee Co. will become The Seattle Grind. Current owner Adam King has decided to sell, citing competition, location and oversaturation as a few of the reasons. There are more than 30 coffee shops in the Queen Anne neighborhood.
King, who has owned Muse (1907 10th Ave. W.) for three years, said he’d been thinking about selling since last fall: “I kept waiting for the numbers to come back, and it just never happened for me.”
For a while, numbers were good, but things have continued to decline, even though King was working 60 hours a week. He figured he could make the same money, working 40 hours somewhere else and spend more time with his young family. King also works at KCTS-9 and freelances as an audio engineer.
The coffee shop’s location has contributed to the decline, with people turning to coffee shops in Uptown or Queen Anne Ave for their caffeine, King said. There’s also Macrina Bakery up the street and the IceBox Grocery next door to compete with.
Location did offer one benefit, though, because it meant King’s rent was lower than shops in more popular areas. There has also been a lot of construction going on, which brings construction workers in for a cup of joe.
The community has also been supportive of King’s decision to sell. “Everyone is very happy for me,” he said. “Everyone knows I’m kind of struggling — you can tell.”
Keeping the flavor
Seattle Grind co-owner Tim Parr will take over Muse coffee. He’s owned The Grind for just more than a year, and he’s worked in the coffee industry since 1997.
A coffee shop like Muse was something Parr had been looking for when he first started The Grind. He decided to start small but couldn’t pass up the opportunity when Muse went up for sale. He loves the way it looks, the casual vibe and the unique décor, he said; the shop has hardwood floors, a yellow moose head and art (created by King) on the walls.
When Parr takes over, he plans to keep the same decor aesthetic but change the name. He loves the name Muse, but “we kind of need to stick to what we are,” he said of his corporation.
Parr has a lot of ideas for the future of the coffee shop. He plans to sell fresh sandwiches, host theater performances, live music and silent-movie nights. As things get rolling, he may introduce beer, wine and appetizers. One thing he’ll do right away is increase the hours.
“[King] is missing a big window,” Parr said. “From early in the morning to late at night.”
King didn’t provide food at the shop because the IceBox Grocery was right next door. But good food can dramatically increase sales, Parr said.
Parr was aware of King’s business situation, and it does worry him, especially now that he’ll own two shops with double the employees and responsibilities.
He also worries some about the location. At The Seattle Grind’s current location (516 Harrison St.), it gets a lot of business from The Gates Foundation and tourism. Parr is sure, though, that people in the neighborhood will appreciate somewhere to go and hang out.
“I feel like people walking their dogs or hanging out, they’ll see the projector running, and it’ll catch their eye and draw them in,” Parr said.
King doesn’t consider his business a failure; he said it was successful enough to support his family. And being an entrepreneur hasn’t left a bad taste in his mouth, either; instead, “I’ve kind of caught the bug,” he said.
Within a few months, he plans to look for another coffee shop, one that is small but with high foot traffic. That means he won’t look in Queen Anne or Ballard, where he lives. Instead, King plans to look for a business downtown or in West Seattle.
Oversaturation can be a problem, but Parr thinks it’s more of a problem in other neighborhoods. He told his Realtor not to look in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, where there already are established coffeehouses.
“I felt like, with Queen Anne, there was maybe more of a chance, down that residential street — there’s not really a coffee shop for miles,” he said.
Courtney Barbour, manager of Caffe Ladro (2205 Queen Anne Ave. N), said upper Queen Anne is saturated with coffee shops, and business is difficult, even for an established shop like hers.
“There’s so many options up here,” she said. “We have our diehard fans, but it’s like if there’s not a place to sit or the line’s too long, you can go anywhere within a mile radius and find something else.”
James Ly, owner and barista at Caffe Zingaro (127 Mercer St.) in Uptown, has different feelings, though. Business has been great, Ly said, and location definitely helps that. He relies on the heavy foot traffic in the area.
“There’s a reason why we all make it as coffee shops,” Ly said in an email. “There are plenty of coffee drinkers in the neighborhood to support all the cafes.”
Ly said he thinks there are probably more Thai restaurants in lower Queen Anne than there are coffee shops.
For owners like Parr, it’s important to stand out. The Seattle Grind creates its own syrups from scratch and offers unique drinks like the lavender latte. It’s a way to set themselves apart, Parr said.
“There are a lot of coffee shops, but everybody has something different to offer,” he said. “I think that’s the great thing about people in Seattle — they know that.”
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