A new coffee shop opening in a small neighborhood on the edge of an increasingly expensive city is often a harbinger of change, but Resistencia Coffee in South Park is a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.
The cafe resides in a 100-year-old building, where an exposed wood wall from the original architecture stands across from a modern colorful mural that owner Coté Soerens added to the space. On an adjacent wall reads the definition of Resistencia, "a local community standing up against adversity with relentless hope and care for everyone in the neighborhood."
As customers filter in and out, often greeted by name with orders already memorized by the baristas, it is easy to see that the cafe lives up to its definition. As Soerens said, "We're radically welcoming."
As a cafe by South Park for South Park, Resistencia keeps everything local. From using a coffee roaster just up the street, Cafe Umbria, to their barista program, which hires and trains diverse residents of South Park to become baristas in a mostly white industry. Even their pastries are thoughtfully sourced from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) vendors in South Seattle, like Umami Kushi's Okazu Pan. As a nod to the Latinx culture of the neighborhood, Resistencia created their signature drink, a Xingona latte: a cinnamon sugar latte with a touch of cayenne, named for the Spanish word for a female badass.
Resistencia opened in 2016, inspired by "a need in South Park for a place for people to gather, a community-oriented space," said Shizuno Wynkoop, manager there.
"A cafe is going to come any minute now," said Wynkoop. "It may as well be [owned] by people who actually live here."
Soerens, who moved to the neighborhood in 2014, had started hosting "soup dinners" with an open invitation to neighbors in the community to join her. All they had to do was bring a spoon. At one of these dinners, she and her husband, as well as two other local couples, discussed this absence of a coffee shop and decided they would be the people to open one.
The three couples started small with a coffee cart kitty-corner to where the cafe now stands. At this cart, Soerens met Wynkoop, who was already a trained barista but was looking for a new cafe that aligned more with her values. The two immediately clicked, and Wynkoop would use her expertise to help build the physical space as well as the coffee program. Three months later, the cafe opened, and it reflected the tradition of older coffee shops in Seattle.
"When people visit the shop from the north, from outside South Park, there is this certain nostalgia for what Seattle used to be, and they find that here," said Soerens.
Like businesses all across Seattle, COVID-19 posed its own challenges for this small business to navigate, but those challenges were felt reverberating beyond the cafe throughout South Park. Resistencia responded in turn, designating part of their space as a community food pantry where flats of fresh produce and other essentials were donated and available for people to grab as needed; no questions asked. Every Thursday, they continue to offer this service to the community. In the summer, they also hosted food pop-ups by local chefs and cooks pursuing their own projects after losing their jobs at restaurants shuttered by the pandemic.
Instead of imposing upon a community, Resistencia has embraced the South Park community in its very design. As a result, the community has embraced them back.
"The pandemic dropped our sales 35%, but our tips, not just the percentage, but the actual dollar amount, have stayed the same," said Soerens.
While coffee shops are often considered community spaces to share and gather in (at least before the pandemic), Resistencia embodies that idea far beyond just providing a physical space.
Resistencia Coffee is located at 1249 S Cloverdale St., Seattle, WA 98108. Want to support more small businesses like Resistencia? We're proud to collaborate with Intentionalist, an online guide that makes it easier for you to find/connect with diverse local businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.