"No-brainer" is how Brendan Mullally sums up his decision to join a growing list of independent Seattle-area coffee shops that have a presence in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. The opportunity came at a key time.
Every day is National Coffee Day, as far as I'm concerned.
"I think, like any small-business owner, I had overly optimistic expectations of my growth," said Mullally, who has worked in coffee shops in New York and his native Seattle since his teens. In 2014, he went out on his own and founded Elm in a 117-year-old building in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square neighborhood.
"Our shop is pretty busy. So people always say, 'Wow! You must be raking in the dough.' But it doesn't always work that way," he said. "We weren’t in dire straits, but we needed something to change pretty quickly."
That's when an acquaintance told him about all the distinctive coffee shops scattered throughout Amazon's urban campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. He was immediately drawn to the concept, and he ended up getting Elm a spot inside Day 1, the Amazon building located next to The Spheres. Now, once a week, he packs up hundreds of pounds of newly-roasted beans, loads them into plastic tubs and rolls them on a dolly to his station wagon for the one-mile drive to Amazon.
"It's like a synergy," he said. "We work really hard to make great coffee, and that provides a service for Amazon employees, while supporting our business. I think it's a great thing."
There are now a dozen coffee roasters from the Pacific Northwest in Amazon’s Seattle offices—a handful of which are even open to the public.
Mullally said he expected customers and baristas to be less connected inside a busy office building than they are at Elm’s original location. "I know people's names here. They’re regulars," he said, sitting outside his bustling Pioneer Square shop on a sunny September morning. "I know a lot about them. But then I go to Amazon, and I see kind of the same thing. I see the baristas talking to people. There's the same sort of relationship there."
Mullally confessed to not knowing that September 29 is National Coffee Day, but he smiled and laughed and offered a pretty good excuse. "Every day is National Coffee Day, as far as I'm concerned."