Community comes first at Resistencia Coffee — community, resistance and last, but not least, coffee. Surrounded by Seattle’s industrial area and mere blocks from the Duwamish Waterway this South Park coffee shop is a welcoming, safe and vibrant community-controlled space that is actively resisting anti-displacement efforts. Since opening in their newly remodeled location on Cloverdale Street in June, founding owner, Coté Soerens has employed a staff solely from her South Park neighborhood, providing some community members with their first job. For other employees it is their first job in the coffee industry, an industry responsible for 1,694,710 jobs in the US economy (National Coffee Association USA). The art displayed on display at Resistencia also reflects the diverse 1st and 2nd generation immigrant residents. Even their paper bags for pastries praise community and resilience with stamped images of Frida Kahlo, the South Park Bridge and the words “Hello” and “Sí, se puede,” a motto created by American civil rights leader, Dolores Huerta, meaning “Yes, We Can!”
Coté and her husband Tim dreamt Resistencia would be “a place that is top of mind for residents of South Park as their space,” when they entered Business Impact NW’s IMPACT Pitch Competition in 2017. After successfully making it through several rounds of competition where they were judged on feasibility, business model, a strategic statement and their social, environmental or economic impact, they made it to the culminating event where they pitched Resistencia Coffee in front of a live audience to a panel of judges.
The café hit a nerve and Coté and Tim took home the $10,000 grand prize for best startup business. “Winning the competition gave us legitimacy. People took us more seriously, which helped us raise the funding we needed” says Coté. Since the IMPACT Pitch, Resistencia has been featured on King 5, in The Stranger and in the City Arts Café article, Can a Café Fight Gentrification?
Coté is so excited to have a “fully opened, beloved and resonating space,” she proudly shares. Looking around the shop you’ll see a diversity of age, occupation, nationality and language, and they’re all mingling and hanging out together. So how did they get here?
When the café was still a dream, Coté researched a few local resources helping with startups and early stage businesses before finding a good fit with the Washington Women’s Business Center at Business Impact NW. “At other places I felt their message was a little patronizing. While I am a woman and an immigrant, I didn’t feel other places were talking about me when they described their programs. At the Women’s Business Center, I felt like I was amongst a group of peers when I talked to Adra [business coach], Joe [executive director] and Roland [loan officer]. They were so approachable. I feel very self-conscious when I ask questions, but felt like everyone had time for my questions. I didn’t end up getting a loan, but the fact that BIN offered a sizable amount of lending for startups, made me feel respected.” Coté goes on to say that “Adra was instrumental. Her style of coaching was perfect for me. And the fact that it was free was even more perfect for me.”
As we chat on a sofa in front of the café, Coté juggles answering my questions, talking about her space, and standing up to greet new customers, saying hello to their kids in their language and making sure to learn their names and welcome them into the fold. “I’m very proud of this. It fills me with joy,” she shares as she sits back down to the interview. “It’s our collective gift to the neighborhood.” Together alongside co-owner investors and South Park residents Isaac and Jordan Robinson-Stark, and Thomas and Jenny Yang, Coté and Tim have made Resistencia an integral part of the local economy and a mainstay in the heart of a vibrant community.
Resistencia Coffee will host their official grand opening on Saturday, September 29th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1249 S Cloverdale St. in South Park. To follow the café on their journey and for updates on the Resistencia Coffee community like them on Facebook and Instagram.
Coté Soerens will be a judge at this year’s IMPACT Pitch, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. on October 4th at 415 Westlake. Everyone is invited to attend the dynamic event. To purchase tickets, please visit: businessimpactnw.org/tickets