Jonathan Pak opened two new cafes at the worst and yet also the best possible time. by Matt Baume
Jonathan Pak spent the pandemic serving coffee to medical workers, day in and day out. He opened his shop, Overcast Coffee Co, in the Kaiser Permanente building on 15th Ave in June of 2020, and now he’s expanded to a second location on Union Street, sharing a space with the Métier bike shop. While the height of a pandemic might have been the worst time in history to have opened a brick-and-mortar cafe, this moment — with everyone emerging and ready to socialize — might be the best.
“This is my first time running a business,” Pak says, sounding both tired and happy over a Zoom call. “It’s been a really great start.”
And while he’s settling into a comfortable routine of slipping caffeine into the city’s veins, Pak has a big, bold vision for what Overcast can become — not just for Capitol Hill, but for the whole city.
Collaboration is key to Pak’s dreams. Métier, the bike shop with which Pak shares a space, is a sister company to Métier Brewing Company in Woodinville, and he’s working closely with the leadership of both companies to integrate their offerings.
Their visions are aligned, in part, because several of them used to work together at Starbucks, where “the mission statement was ‘one cup, one person, one community at a time,’ Pak says. “We’re trying to do that on a more local scale.”
To that end, Pak has sought community connections in designing the new space. A mural on the outside of the building was created by local artist Stevie Shao (sidenote: Art-watchers, Shao’s work is gorgeous and she’s definitely one you should have your eye on); Overcast carries street buns from Harold Fields’s restaurant, Umami Kushi; Pak’s talking to local bike star Marley Blonsky (who was recently seen in the documentary All Bodies on Bikes) about organizing inclusive events; and he’s reached out to nearby Seattle U about hosting study and social events for students.
Over the next year, Pak says, he wants to cement Overcast as a destination for neighbors, whose numbers are increasing every day.
“When I envision the future, I see the cafe just full of people hanging out,” he says. “I’m finding a lot of gratification in seeing the indoors seating and outdoor patio completely full, people enjoying the art, hosting the events for people to come and enjoy being in a public space where they feel completely welcome.”
There’s a new, nearly completed residential-over-retail building less than a block away, with occupants already moving in before the concrete on the sidewalk has been poured. All those new neighbors are going to need to get their coffee somewhere, and as Seattle transitions (begrudgingly) to a post-car-ownership city, they’ll also need to get their bikes tuned. Might as well meet both needs under the same roof.
“Capitol hill is buzzing,” Pak says, beaming as he sits at a table in front of his new cafe. “It’s been really fun to jump into it.”