Randy Garutti politely pauses our conversation so he can charge past me and envelop Mark Canlis’s wife, and all three of his children, in an enormous hug in the Canlis lounge. Garutti is the CEO of a little burger operation called Shake Shack. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If you haven’t, you might want to meander down to South Lake Union come mid-2018. Because that’s when the white-hot burger chain will open its first-ever Seattle location. It’s official: Shake Shack is coming to town.
The ebullient, sharply summer-suited CEO flew in from New York this week to visit the site, a 1920 building at 2115 Westlake Ave that pretty much drips historic charm. Its low, wedge-shaped profile sits in sharp contrast to the glossy towers that now rise all around it. Garutti’s team spent the last two years looking around the city; rather than target a specific neighborhood, he says, “we like to find a building, a place where people can gather.” Though of course, its proximity to Amazon headquarters did not go unnoticed. Nor did the Whole Foods a block away: The grocer’s clientele shares Shake Shack fans’ affinity for things like carefully sourced ingredients and artful Instagrams of frozen custard.
The future Shake Shack Seattle currently houses Wheelhouse Coffee, and until recently a dental practice. Garutti wasn’t kidding about finding buildings. Once Team Shack fell in love with this one, they spent a year coaxing the dentist to relocate. After a major overhaul, the interior will look familiar if you’ve visited any of Shake Shack’s 136 locations, from New York City to Detroit to the newest one in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood. A big outdoor seating area should be bananas any time the sun’s out.
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