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Shoreline coffee shop blends business with activism

After only a year in business, Black Coffee Northwest is already growing its business and its community reach. #k5evening

SHORELINE, Wash. — It's fair to say a lot of good things begin over coffee. And that was the case for Darnesha and Erwin Weary, who met over coffee more than 20 years ago for their first date.  

"Our first date was at a coffee shop," Darnesha shared. "It was the one thing we could agree on that we both liked."

These days, Darnesha and Erwin are still bonding over their favorite beverage as the owners of Black Coffee Northwest in Shoreline.   

While coffee shops often by their nature cultivate community, Black Coffee takes it to another level. 

"We're like a community center that just happens to do amazing coffee," Erwin said.

"It's a workout facility in the morning, then in the evening, it's whatever it needs to be," Darnesha explained. 

They've hosted musical performances, back-to-school drives, and small business marketplaces. 

Their internship program trains youth in all aspects of the business, from the basics of being a barista to finance and marketing. Some interns eventually work at Black Coffee, like Merit Ghidey, who at 16 years old, is now a shift lead. 

"It's very relieving to have people support me," Ghidey shared. "This is my first job so I have a support system in the workplace."  

With the shop only being open for about a year, the success hasn't come without setbacks. 

It started with arson using a molotov cocktail, the day before their grand opening in the fall of 2020. Months later, employees found swastikas drawn near the front door. Most recently, someone smashed their front door. And those are just the ones that made headlines. 

"There's random weird notes all over the place like leave our community or Black lives don't matter. The N-word. When the young folks open in the morning, they come to see glass everywhere, or they come to see stickers and swastikas. They shouldn't be exposed to that. No one should be exposed to that but we're trying to help them see a better side of life."

While the incidents are hard to talk about, Darnesha and Erwin believe it's part of the work to make things better.

With each attack, their resolve to do more only grows. They have opened a youth development center adjacent to their Shoreline shop, which gives children a place to go after school. And the business now has a second location in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

Black Coffee Northwest is located at 16743 Aurora Ave. N. in Shoreline and is closed Sundays.


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