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We all have our favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or neighborhood bar. It may offer a sentimental connection, because you’ve gone there for so long. It may offer the best customer service, latte, or wi-fi connection. Or it may simply offer convenience because it is the closest to your home or office. But, once in a while, we come across a business that offers something more than just a fun place to go – it offers a space that brings neighbors together, an experience that inspires you, and a more personalized connection to the product or service. This week, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite businesses – businesses that have inspired us as we design our inventory, store, and outreach.  If you haven’t already, we would encourage you to take a field trip this weekend to check them out or, at least, take some time and go celebrate your own personal favorite!

sip and shipSip and Ship
If you’re like me, you dread having to send a package, prepare a holiday shipment, or even stock up on stamps.   And, that’s not surprising: the post office often means long lines, confusing forms, and a fairly uninspiring shopping experience. But, the experience at Sip and Ship is altogether different.  When you walk into the space, you are immediately greeted by a stack of hoodies and t-shirts that are branded with the neighborhood’s name. While you’re waiting in line to ship something (if there is a line at all!) you are offered a coffee from the nearby barista. And, when you’re trying to determine the best way to send that gift, you can choose from a selection of shipping and packing options. Sip and Ship is great because they have created a genuine community experience, by combining shipping/postal needs with a coffee shop and neighborhood store. On top of that, they offer friendly and personalized customer service, which reminds you of how post offices used to feel, but with a fully modern twist.

photo credit: sip and ship

chuck'sChuck’s Hop Shop
The Seattle P.I. has described Chuck’s as “the best bar that isn’t really a bar”. It’s actually a convenience store, on a busy corner, that is neighbored by a gas station, car wash, and dry cleaner…..not exactly the location where you’d envision spending your Friday night. But, as you walk into the store, you are immediately struck by its magic. On one hand, the space still maintains it’s convenience store roots: aisles stocked with beer and junk food. On the other, they have created a really cool community space: tables and chairs tucked between the refrigerators and a large, exciting selection of beer, which you can grab directly from the fridges (about a 1000 to choose from) or select from the rotating line-up of 38 draughts. In many ways, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the space is always packed.

It’s packed because the space oozes passion for beer; the rotating food truck in the parking lot means there is always something new to experience; and the tables are always packed with people from the community, so you often run into someone you know. The best part is that, even when it’s crowded, it’s never “a scene”. After all, you’re hanging out in a convenience store.

Photo credit: Capitol Hill blog

via vadiVia Vadi
Another favorite is one of our neighbors in South Park: Via Vadi, “where the coffee is hot and the buns are sticky”.  This coffee shop is tucked into the back of South Park’s keystone Napoli Pizza and constantly packed with neighbors and local workers.  You are immediately greeted by a case of house-baked goods and Maria, whose family owns and runs the cafe and pizzeria. Maria is one of those rare souls who has customer service running through her veins and who balances her work with a constant dialogue with customers. The small space is usually filled and, in true South Park fashion, offers a great opportunity to meet someone new and get caught up on the local news (AKA gossip!). While we were building out out South Park store, it also offered us a temporary “office” where we could conduct meetings and de-briefs. The magic here is the near constant relationship building between neighbors and staff. It just goes to show that a small space in a small community can, indeed, have a big impact!

Photo credit: Via Vadi (Maria is on the left!)