May 22

Customer Focus

Mikayla Benedict, owner of Evoke Coffee, discusses the new normal for her business in South Lake Union.

What is the day-to-day like for Evoke?

The new normal for Evoke can be a bit quiet and solemn. People who do come in are stoked that we are open which has lifted my spirits personally, but the streets feel like a ghost town, and thus our sales are also down. We are open every day from 9am-4pm, but I unfortunately cannot afford to pay anyone on payroll so it is a staff of just me every day. It’s definitely been an adjustment. I am grateful to be open at all, but I am also nervous about our uncertain future.

What kinds of changes have you had to implement for customer safety?

We have everything in to-go containers, but otherwise the menu has remained the same. We cannot let people hangout in the store as we used to. We wipe down any surfaces that people have been sitting at while waiting for their coffee and/or food. We wipe down the credit card machine between transactions. Just extra safety precautions. We also leave the door open so the handle doesn’t need to be touched by customers coming in or out.

How have your customers responded to changes?

Customers that do come in are stoked to have human interaction at all, as it has been a lonely time for anyone living alone in the city right now. Everyone has been great, it just has been sad to see such a reduction in the amount of people coming in. We do about 1/10th the business of what we normally would at this time.

What has this experience taught you as a business owner?

I have had to learn resiliency and the fact that I am not, and never was, in complete control. We have always been busy since we opened, and now we are averaging less than our first day 2.5 years. I believe it has helped greatly to shift my mindset to focusing on each person that walks through the door and improving their day rather than the small business gloom and doom that is occurring in the outside world.

Do you have thoughts to share with other businesses facing difficult choices right now?

It may be cheesy, but we truly are all in this together. Small business is incredibly difficult right now, and focusing on the difficulty will not change the situation. We have to focus on the small positives; the positive interactions rather than the numbers. One day we will thrive again, and until that time we have no other choice but to keep trying and keep a smile on our faces. We have to be leaders of our teams and keep a positive outlook even if the reality is not so. This too shall pass.

You can buy coffee, delicious toasts, sandwiches, acai bowls, and more at Evoke Coffee (235 Ninth Ave.).

Story by Ethan Chung and photographs courtesy Evoke Espresso.

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle