Today’s Business Highlight features Cherry Street Coffee House, a local coffee shop with 10 locations in Seattle. Cherry Street Coffee serves up bagels, coffee, and tasty treats. We sat down with owner Ali Ghambari to talk about the history of Cherry Street Coffee and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their business. Fun Fact: Ali also started the Seattle Iranian Festival which, like Northwest Folklife, is part of Festál at Seattle Center!
The first Cherry Street Coffee House opened in 1997 and took its name from the street it opened on. One of Ali’s first jobs in the U.S. was as a dishwasher. He fell in love with the industry and knew that was what he would do if he started his own business.
“Working in restaurants helped me learn about the culture. It has always been a way to connect to the community, from the beginning,” says Ali.
23 years and 9 additional locations later, for Ali, it still all comes back to community and cultural sharing. “Everyone says America is built on immigrants, and that is true, but I feel like as an immigrant, it is so important to bring something to the table. That is what I always tell other members of the Iranian community here,” says Ali. “Sharing your culture, that is what makes us a community.”
Three of the locations still remain open and serve takeout while maintaining social distancing standards during the stay-at-home order, but sales are down. This adds to economic stress that was squeezing small businesses long before COVID-19. Despite all this, Ali is grateful. “Our community has always supported us and continue to support us, so I don’t think I need to ask them for anything right now.”
“What I think is really important is to continue to see like-minded people come together, to create art and community, I see that with what Northwest Folklife is doing, with what Festál is doing,” says Ali. “So that is what I ask for.”
Learn more about Cherry Street Coffee House: