Warm Welcome Back: FareStart Reopens Café in Pacific Tower
For the first time since the pandemic, the FareStart Café located at Pacific Tower is open and serving coffee, tea, freshly made pastries and sandwiches. The café is also home to FareStart’s Barista & Customer Service Program.
The eagerly anticipated reopening reflects our strong commitment to reinvesting in our roots as a nonprofit social enterprise. Scores of happy customers who work at the landmark Art Deco office building on Beacon Hill have given the café a warm welcome back.
“Once we opened the gates, they were like, Oh my gosh! We’re so happy you guys are back!” says FareStart Café Manager Sazurice Williams (she/her).
“It’s great to be back home. It’s great to feel missed,” adds Chermell Cain (she/her), who heads up virtual training at FareStart and works closely with Barista & Customer Service students during their first few weeks in the program.
FareStart moved into Pacific Tower in 2014. Our training program for youth and young adults expanded there two years later after being housed in other café locations over the years. More than 1,600 students have gone through the Barista & Customer Service Program since its inception over 20 years ago.
All training moved online during the COVID pandemic, then resumed in-person earlier this year, with students putting their classroom skills to the test in the busy FareStart Café in Amazon’s Houdini North office building in South Lake Union.
The South Lake Union location does brisk business, especially on weekday mornings when Amazon employees show up for work, ordering a cup of their favorite caffeine as they stream into the building. The fast-paced intensity can feel stressful — especially for barista trainees who are just getting started.
‘Space and Grace’
Our Beacon Hill location offers students a less hectic environment, one where they can transfer classroom skills to on-the-job learning at a slower, steadier pace.
“Pacific Tower is a place where you are allowed space and grace,” Chermell explains. “We’re open to mistakes. We want you to make mistakes, so you can see that it’s not a big deal.”
For many our students, FareStart is the first place where they’ve felt a true sense of support and encouragement.
“A lot of the students who come through our doors, they want to succeed but they don’t necessarily know how or have the experience to,” says Sazurice. “Not all students we have are brand new to the workforce. Some of them have had jobs before, but for one reason or another, they just weren’t able to retain the job.”
From Tentative to Confident
Before they work their first shift, students get plenty of practice making every drink on the menu. At first, they follow recipes spelled out on a classroom whiteboard, with trainers guiding them until they’re ready to put their skills to the test in the café.
There’s nothing like seeing a student transform from a tentative trainee to a confident barista, who smiles ear to ear every time a customer raves about the delicious drink they just made.
“When you hear the customer take a sip of their drink and say, Oh, man! That was good! … [the students] are super pumped. You see them jumping up and down,” Chermell says.
Some of the Pacific Tower customers giving the café such a warm welcome back include other FareStart students and staff on the second floor of Pacific Tower, in a kitchen that produced millions of meals during the pandemic. Other tenants include Pacific Medical Centers, Neighborcare Health, and several offices of local nonprofits. Everyone seems excited to have the café back, and not just because they have an easier way to grab a bite and caffeine boost at work.
“Our community here, they will come back … just to see how far our students have come along,” says Chermell. “They’re really invested.”
Open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., FareStart Café at Pacific Tower serves as the main on-the-job training location for our Barista and Customer Service Program. As students grow their skills, they will be able to work at the FareStart Café in South Lake Union as well.