Your favorite Seattle businesses: Fighting for equity at The Station

Twenty years ago, Priya Frank went to Nathan Hale High School with Luis and Leona Rodriguez. On Monday, she sipped a drink in the coffee shop they opened on Beacon Hill. It’s called The Station, and it’s one of her favorite hangouts in the city.  

It’s so much more than a coffee shop,” Priya said. “It’s just a place you can come and be yourself. A place to feel comfortable and safe.”

Priya works on community programs for the Seattle Art Museum, and has made a lot of new connections in the art scene through The Station. When she wanted to get a group of friends and coworkers together to talk about equity a couple months ago, she brought them here. It had the right chill vibe, she said. And the right values.

“[Luis] doesn’t make apologies for calling stuff out, calling people out,” Priya said. “They’re not afraid to challenge inequity.”

‘It’s a beautiful thing, ‘cause it’s for everybody,’ said Jacob Muune, left, of The Station. “If I don’t use my platform to talk about real issues,” said owner Luis Rodriguez, right, “I’m no better than anyone else.” (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

The Station has a short but deep relationship with the neighborhood that surrounds it, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse parts of the city. Luis and Leona, who are married with two kids, opened it in 2010 at a smaller location than where it sits now: around the corner from El Centro de la Raza, a hub for Seattle’s Latino community, and across the street from the Beacon Hill light rail station.

As Priya and I were wrapping up our conversation, Luis and Leona stepped into the shop. “I need my coffee!” Luis said after everyone exchanged hellos, and got his go-to drink, a “shot in the dark.” (That’s a black coffee plus a single shot of espresso.)

Once he had settled in at the long table in front of the counter, I asked him about what I saw around the shop: t-shirts for a movement to not build a new youth jail, a sign by the window endorsing Nikkita Oliver for mayor, a painting of him, Leona, and their two kids raising their arms in front of a sign that reads “Justice Now.”

We need to make changes in the world, and it takes a community,” Luis said. “If I don’t use my platform to talk about real issues, I’m no better than anyone else.”

Luis and Leona’s two kids are biracial – Black and Mexican. As parents, they think about that. “Those two communities are under attack and have been under attack for many years,” Luis said. “If I raise my kids in a community with respect [for each other], then my kids are going to be safe.”

The Station, for Luis and Leona, is that community. It’s the mix of people at the coffee shop, the small events they host, and some bigger things, too, like The Station’s annual summer hip hop music and arts Block Party.

While we were chatting, a man named Jacob Muune said hi. He grew up in the Central District before moving to Beacon Hill.

It’s a beautiful thing, ‘cause it’s for everybody,” Jacob said of The Station. “It solidifies what Beacon Hill used to be, and what we’re trying to hold onto.”

Thanks to our promotional partner TownSquared, an online community for small businesses, for helping us get the word out and gather your nominations. Stay tuned for another small business profile in tomorrow’s Evergrey.