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.
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.”