Turn off the busy arterial of Colby Ave in Everett, and amidst the quiet side street neighborhood on 23rd sits Catalyst Cafe, an all-inclusive local gathering space creating meaningful change in Snohomish County.
At first glance, it looks like any other neighborhood coffee house with a warm, inviting and welcoming vibe. Catalyst Cafe is all this and more. Its main mission and the motivation for owner Adair Gearhart is to welcome all — regardless of gender identity, sexuality or race.
"I wanted to make a place I would feel comfortable going to and welcome others into it," said Gearhart, a non-binary, transgender man who works diligently for LGBTQ rights.
Gearhart prefers to use the pronouns they/them and currently sits as the president of the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay) Everett chapter. Recently their chapter was contacted by the Tulalip tribe to help establish the first Two-Spirit Pride event, which will be held sometime in the near future. A collaboration near and dear to Gearhart's heart, for they have familial ties with the Sinixt tribe located in Eastern Washington.
On the front door of the cafe is a Black Lives Matter sticker, and in the front window flashes an "open" sign lit up in rainbow colors. These are subtle yet powerful signs that this is a safe space, and all are included here. On top of the sandwich counter, there is a message in the Sinixt language reading, Way' Sl'axt, which translates as "Welcome Friends." It is also the message Gearhart chose as the wifi password.
But don't expect this eatery to be filled with rainbows, unicorns and glitter. That is not the ambiance Gearhart is going for — the cafe is filled with retro card tables and high-backed chairs giving it more of a bistro-feel. One person sits at a corner window table eating a sandwich while others come and go in a steady stream of activity, either ordering their oat milk lattes or vegan sandwich for carry out. Catalyst Cafe caters to vegan options as well as gluten-free or sugar-free needs, further embracing an inclusive dining experience.
Gearhart strives for "this to be a place where everyone feels normalized, accepted and equal." Right down to the interior and furnishings. Gearhart feels "we are that neighborhood cafe, everyone's hang out spot."
Catalyst Cafe swung open its doors on Nov. 2, 2021, with a soft opening and exceeded Gearhart's expectations since that moment. The cafe is open every day but Mondays and the word is out. Gearhart has already built up a fan base of locals and regulars.
"I love all my regulars," they said with their infectious enthusiasm.
It is this enthusiasm that has become the trademark for Catalyst Cafe, along with Gearhart's passion. It is contagious. A grand opening is planned for Jan. 11, 2022 — so mark your calendar!
Gearhart walks their talk, too. They talk about creating change while sitting as the president of the local PFLAG, they volunteer their time and energy with several mutual aid projects in the area and donate any leftover food items to the Community Pantry (a resource for those experiencing food insecurity) located inside the Everett Community College Campus. All of these individually make a difference but collectively work for real day-to-day actionable change within Gearhart's community.
And Catalyst Cafe is an extension of Gearhart's energy for community projects as well as passion for creating a more equitable and just world — all causes worth supporting a small business for.
As for Gearhart's future plans, they hope to see Catalyst Cafe grow and perhaps open a second shop or expand this one. For now, they are well situated and pleased to be a part of the "Bayside" neighborhood businesses in Everett.