Starting January 1, Seattle restaurateur Deming Maclise officially took possession of Seattle’s CaffÃ¨ Vita, marking a period of rebirth for the iconic coffee company.
Maclise’s takeover follows one of the most difficult times in the history of the 25-year-old brand, after reports published last October that CaffÃ¨ Vita employees were fired for giving day old pastries and leftover coffee to a homeless man. The stranger reported on the allegations and the ensuing employee protest.
Having assumed full ownership of the business from former owner Mike McConnell, Maclise is now in the unique position to help promote, maintain and, in a way, rebuild an iconic brand that extends far beyond. from Seattle across hundreds of wholesale accounts and 10 locations in the West and East Coasts.
Seattle CaffÃ¨ Vita branches now donate their baked goods for a day to Northwest Harvest, a Washington state hunger relief agency that also helps the company find donation locations for Vita cafes outside the Seattle market.
âLooking ahead, I really want to be even more focused on creating this community – that ‘welcome to everyone’ vibe that cafes are capable of,â Maclise told Daily Coffee News recently. âI love that the entrance fee is basically a cup of coffee. Anyone from all walks of life can walk into a cafe and be in the same room, talking to each other. I just want to make sure Vita has that welcoming community vibe that I love about coffee shops.
Maclise has built a remarkable career hosting guests in Seattle restaurants and cafes. His origins of coffee in the city go back to the 1990s, when he moved to his hometown of Davis, California.
“[I] had been in bands since I was in college, and the music scene was really happening [in Seattle], so in 1991 I was like, “Well, I’m going to go out there and play some music,” Maclise said. When I moved here, I was a musician. I made coffee to pay the bills. At the time, it wasn’t called “barista”, it was just called making coffee. “
Maclise made coffee and managed a few independent coffee shops, including Seattle coffee pioneer Uptown Espresso, before embarking on entrepreneurship with CaffÃ¨ Fiore in 2002. Maclise made Fiore a fully organic coffee – an innovative take on coffee. era – while starting its wholesale relationship with the roaster. CaffÃ¨ Vita, which was established in 1995 in the Queen Ann district.
As Fiore expanded to four locations in Seattle, Maclise opened his first restaurant, Bastille CafÃ¨ & Bar, in 2009. Since then, he has assumed at least part of the ownership of six new restaurants and bars in the area. Seattle, including Rhein Haus, Poquitos, Beer Star, Stoneburner, Macleod’s and seaplane.
Despite the varying successes of these restaurants, Maclise said he remains drawn to the pace and community nature of the cafe.
âI love how coffee culture can create a community and a neighborhood around it,â he said. âYou can do it with restaurants, but people show up maybe once a month, or once every few months; but in a cafe, people show up every day, so this ability to create community, it happens in a very powerful way with the world of coffee.
Maclise does not intend to make radical changes to the core business or menus of Vita; instead, he hopes to build on the brand’s proven successes. The zero point for this plan could be 1005 E. Pike St. on Capitol Hill, which has a Vita roast and training facility.
âWe already have some really great people out there who are really good baristas, and I want to see if we can make that part of our business even stronger – the training aspect – even bring the audience in and show them techniques of home brewing, âMaclise mentioned. âThen, with the wholesale accounts, [we want to have] this support element is even stronger; this part interests me a lot. And then, when it comes to our farmers that we have relationships with, I want to deepen them, strengthen those relationships and give our green buyers the means to really solidify themselves. [them]. “
CaffÃ¨ Fiore and other Maclise restaurants are already known for their warm and welcoming wooden interiors and European accents, elements that he plans to gradually incorporate into various places in Vita.
âI always think about how I can create an interior that people want to spend time in, and where they feel comfortable and want to stay,â said Maclise. “[Itâs] something that really obsesses me.
Mark Van Streefkerk
Mark Van Streefkerk is a freelance writer who often covers specialty coffee shops and Seattle news. Learn more about him at markvanstreefkerk.com, or follow him on Instagram at @markthewriter.