New management of Uptown Espresso explains what’s changing in West Seattle, and what’s not

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Four and a half months after the sudden death of Uptown Espresso‘s owner, the local chain is getting some management help – and some resulting changes have raised questions among customers.

We looked into the changes – specifically, the ones made at the Uptown shops in the West Seattle Junction and Delridge – after e-mails from half a dozen customers wondering about the changes and rumors of others to come.

The major changes confirmed by the new management: The Junction shop is now closing earlier in the evening. And the Delridge shop is phasing out retail sales of board games.

Uptown owner Dow Lucurell died in July, just 54 years old. Fonté Coffee, Uptown’s roaster, is now its manager.

Our questions were answered in an e-mail exchange with Jason Cronk, retail operations manager for Fonté and Uptown. First, he clarified that Fonté has not purchased the Uptown shops: “Fonte is merely the management company at this point. With the sudden passing of Dow the owner, we have agreed to step in to manage and refresh the cafés. We are committed to maintaining the heart and soul of Uptown. We will be replacing worn-out equipment and refreshing the stores with some much-needed maintenance. The sudden passing of Dow, the owner of Uptown has put us in a situation to help maintain the legacy of Uptown.”

At Delridge, Cronk says, the Gameporium identity is evolving, not ending. “Delridge will continue to offer games to all customers to play while in the Café. We simply will not be retailing them anymore. We plan on turning the front shelving into a community lending library. We are offering BOGO on all games until our stock is depleted.”

Delridge will continue to be open into the evening, Cronk said: “We have no intention of changing hours in Delridge.”

The West Seattle Junction store, however, is closing earlier, at least for now, Cronk confirms. Previously, it was open until 10 pm five nights a week, 11 pm Fridays and Saturdays, and now it’s closing at 6 pm, seven nights a week, displacing some community groups that had held evening meetings there.

Explained Cronk: “Short term, we have adjusted hours at several of the cafés in order to rein in expenses and assess the overall health of the business. These hours are a temporary measure in certain stores and will be addressed again seasonally when the traffic patterns shift.” Specifically, he says, “hours will be revisited in the spring.”

Any other changes? we asked. The reply: “No other big changes are occurring on the customer side right now. We will be introducing additional scratch-made products to all stores next year. A full sandwich and savory program as well as an expanded whole-bean coffee selection and some new offerings.”

Even under the wing of Fonté, which has cafés downtown and in Bellevue, the Uptown brand will carry on, Cronk said: “Uptown espresso will remain Uptown. We are two separate companies with a shared goal of creating great customer gathering places with amazing products.” He said Fonté is overall promising “even better coffee, cleaner stores, more options.”

27 Replies to "New management of Uptown Espresso explains what's changing in West Seattle, and what's not"

  • Gary December 3, 2018 (9:22 pm)

    Shame about the retail games, it added a level of neighborhood.  Although we may have only got 2 or 3 a year we made a point of getting them there.  Was aes I me to be taught how and then get it right there

    • Jason Sturgeon December 4, 2018 (7:35 am)

      FYI, our great neighborhood game store Meeples is not too far away! The coffee isn’t is good as uptown, but they have a MUCH better selection of games and a fantastic staff (with a good selection of food as well). On California, just north of the junction. 

      • Jasper Whannell December 4, 2018 (8:11 am)

        Our whole family loves meeples!  Really helpful friendly staff. Yummy food, amazing board game selection. My six year old was even able to ask one of the staff to help explain the rules or some Pokemon cards.  It’s good that UE gameporium will still live on as a lending library. That seems very much in the spirit of community!

        • CT December 4, 2018 (2:03 pm)

          Yeah, Meeples is rad. I got my DnD dice and PHB there, they have a sweet rewards program too.

      • NFolsom December 6, 2018 (10:04 am)

        Yes, Meeples is great. I play there regularly, and want them to continue to be successful, so this could be good for them, but I think there was plenty of need for both venues. and Meeples is often packed to the gills. I feel like it’s a slap committed by people who had/have no idea what they had. How will they even have games to play if they don’t stock them. As a business person, the model just doesn’t work. It’ll be like Beverage Place which has a few games that may or may not be complete.

  • Out for a Walk December 3, 2018 (9:38 pm)

    I’ve always experienced great service, good coffee and a welcoming  staff. So glad they plan to continue serving the neighborhood. 

  • Mike December 3, 2018 (9:54 pm)

    I’ve never lived in a big city that rolled up its sidewalks so early. Sure, there’s no shortage of bars, but I’m sorry to read that my favorite coffee shop won’t be open later. 

    • Swede. December 3, 2018 (10:20 pm)

      Might be because Seattle isn’t a ‘big city’, it just wants to be. (Not even a million people population is fairly small)

      • KBear December 3, 2018 (10:48 pm)

        Less than a million in the city proper, but Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest and has been for a century. It’s in the top 20 of US cities, whether you count by city population or total metro area. King County is also one of the most populated counties in the US. So no, we are not “small” unless you’re comparing us to cities outside the US. And West Seattle is part of this big city.

  • HS December 3, 2018 (10:34 pm)

    I’m looking forward to improvements at the Junction location; however, the 6pm closure is rough. 

  • Steve December 4, 2018 (2:32 am)

    They are gonna ruin the business further then buy it. 

  • David December 4, 2018 (6:06 am)

    It appears that the new management is making change for the sake of change at The Junction. They have moved the bakery case to the opposite side of the barista position so that when two people are working they are constantly crossing around each other which is a recipe for an accident with hot coffee. They apparently have no idea of “work flow”. They need to listen to the staff when making changes. 

    • HW December 4, 2018 (3:07 pm)

      Have you ever worked at a coffee shop? Every one I have ever worked at has that layout and thus I think the move of the case makes a ton of sense – they will likely sell more pastries since you can decide while waiting in line  vs crossing the line to see, hovering by the register, or not buying anything because you didn’t see them. The baristas were already going back and forth to get milk and the like.

  • Kerri December 4, 2018 (7:42 am)

    I’m quite disappointed about loosing the Game Emporium as a retailer. My family has learned at least a dozen games from the store’s hosts that we wouldn’t have taken the time to figure out on our own. We now have these in our own family collection so that adds up to a lot of good quality family time. Thank you to Game Emporium and their game hosts for this gift! I do worry that simply keeping the lending library won’t keep the game culture that drives people into the shop from all over- I bet we’ll end up staying at a Burien coffee shop ourselves if we don’t have the draw of someone being able to teach us a new game. (And for those that are judging that it can’t be that hard to read instructions, it really is! And the instructions don’t cover all the levels of strategy that the hosts know as experienced players.) I wonder if there are any community grants available to keep the Game Emporium going? 

    • HelperMonkey December 4, 2018 (8:29 am)

      Kerri – as stated above, you should check out Meeples!

      • Toot toot December 5, 2018 (8:59 am)

        Real nice advertising off others the other place u shamefully and rudely pointed is a not a good alternative to what they do at the uptown espresso game emporium  its like comparing whole food and Trader Joe’s to that awful grocery store  down the street that isnot Safeway or thriftway.  Might look the part but it’s really just a mask to sell over priced not good tasting food with piss poor customer service and ownership and management. If u know real food markets you know what a real one looks like and what trying to be looks like.paying full price for something that is trying to be is a waste of time. Uptown espresso prior to the oppressive new management was a place where your time was your time.why is coffee roaster manging a coffee shop ? Like u roast coffee that is not sales or creating a coffee shop. Further more uptown real ownership might to get a new roaster and change up their beans. No need to Pipe it down when u not pipe n hot 

  • LAH December 4, 2018 (9:11 am)

    Hopefully Fonte’s poor sanitary habits do not rub off on Uptown as I frequent the Delridge location.   It’s embarrassing that both Fonte locations only have OKs from the King County health inspectors whereas Uptown is mostly Excellent.    

  • erika rodgers December 4, 2018 (10:20 am)

    i love the 2 girls that work at the jx uptown in the morning they are so pretty and charming. their names are jessica and julia and i love them!!!!!!!!!1!!!!1111

  • kj December 4, 2018 (10:40 am)

    I have been going to the WS Uptown for years, but the prices are getting very high for my coffee budget, Was there yesterday and a grande latte was over $5!

  • Delridge December 4, 2018 (12:01 pm)

    I’m sorry to hear about the passing of the owner of uptown espresso.  I didn’t know he had passed away. 

    • WSB December 4, 2018 (12:46 pm)

      Someone mentioned it to us a while back but I wasn’t able to find any quantification at the time, and it fell off my checklist. I was subsequently surprised to find while researching, when people started e-mailing us at the end of last week about the changes, that there wasn’t anything even in the citywide/regional media about his death – I would have thought the sudden passing of the proprietor of a citywide chain would have made news. But all I found was the obituary. – TR

  • JeffK December 4, 2018 (12:58 pm)

    I’ve been a regular for years at the Junction Uptown.  Been meeting a couple of friends there every other week for years now.  Going to have to find some place else.  Same for the knitters, foreign language groups, and tech tutors.

  • editrixie December 4, 2018 (1:09 pm)

    Well, this is pretty disappointing. My friend and I won’t really have anyplace nearby now to go in the evening, what with the other coffee shops in walking distance closing at 6 too. Guess I’ll save some money, but I really liked writing over a few chais or Italian sodas. 

    • RUEBEN December 5, 2018 (9:12 am)

      I would suggest C & P, they close at 8pm! A few blocks south of the junction uptown

  • Michael Waldo December 4, 2018 (2:04 pm)

    From the announcement, the 6 pm closing time is temporary whilst they sus out the situation. A sudden death of the owner can create a bit of chaos. I too am supersized no local media covered his passing. I have been going to uptown for almost 30 years. The original in lower Queen Anne. My go to place when seeing a movie at the Uptown theater. Always preferred the funky charm over the sterile Starbucks.

  • Uptown Employee December 4, 2018 (8:03 pm)

    That line about reigning in expenses doesn’t make sense.Fonte cut all the late hours and shifts for Uptown stores, claiming paying for those hours was too much of an expense. Then they decided that shifts with only one barista need two, and doubling up on those solo shifts actually makes for over 100 more labor hours to be paid out each week. That’s 100 hours more than if they’d never cut the store closing times and left the floor coverage as is. Many of these shift times are very slow, so two people working is completely unnecessary.So that reasoning is a straight lie. This also means many baristas are having their total pay drop by 30% due to having to split tips in half. Who can afford a 30% pay cut and still pay bills or rent? Nobody.Also, while Fonte doesn’t technically own Uptown, Paul (Fontes owner, and now Uptowns owner, who hasn’t once bothered to address his own staff or introduce himself) was who we were told bought Uptown, and Fonte managers and technicians have been managing Uptown and it’s equipment, so Mr.Cronk is being purposefully misleading and speaking as though some other owner may present themselves in the future.Furthermore, despite multiple baristas asking them not to, they’re also going to pool tips for the day, meaning when you go tip your barista, they have to turn the cash you wanted them to have over to fonte, who will redistribute it amongst the baristas as they see fit.Dozens of employees have asked both the ownership team and Mr.Cronk to reconsider the shift changes and tip pooling, and they refuse.While all businesses go through change, I think it’s unfortunate that Fonte has decided to leave Uptowns workers in the dust, and even lie and saddle blame on them. When customers emailed Mr.Cronk to ask why there was no notification that hours were changing beforehand, he emailed them back saying he’d instructed all of us to tell customers verbally. This never happened, and we had short notice of hours changing just like customers. Some of us even made signs at other stores because the owner and manager couldn’t be bothered to so much as print out a sign. So, if you’re at an Uptown and a barista seems less cheery than usual try to give them a bit of a break. Most of us are really sad to leave a company that allowed us to be part of out communities and part of our customers lives, while also dealing with the stress of losing significant amounts of income and finding new jobs. 

  • ASB December 6, 2018 (10:33 am)

    When I was working through grad school a few years ago, I relied on Uptown being open late as a place to work on papers and research. 6pm? That is kind of B.S. The Gameporium has been my go-to since it opened. (It was very near my house at the time, not far from me now….) – better atmosphere than Mox and fewer kids around than Meeples (Both great places, btw,  just different vibes) – without retail, they won’t maintain the needed stock, expertise, and options. I hope they reconsider that move. I did not know Dow had passed, that is sad, but this is a move that will close my favorite shops.

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