A coffee stand opens next Friday at 35th/Barton. And this little stand has a big backstory.
In the photo is Melanie Robbins, a West Seattle resident who is opening Animated Café in the Tony’s Market lot on the northeast corner of the intersection. She wants other young people to know you can chart your own path. She dropped out of high school just before the pandemic and went into training to be a barista (eventually getting her GED). Instead of going to work for somebody else’s coffee shop, she’s launching her own. She says a year and a half of online studies inspired many of her peers to “carve their own path in the world” too. In email before we spoke by phone, she wrote:
…I’ve watched nearly every one of my friends pursue an alternative lifestyle in order to feel less stuck in a world that seems to have forgotten about them. That means getting a job and fast-tracking their adult lives. The world that has historically valued school as the primary way of learning, and that has been disrupted. We are inspired by social media, do our research on Google, and learn how to make things on YouTube. School was day care for most kids prior to COVID. It turned into a joke during the pandemic instead of being the educational resource it is promised to be
I dropped out of high school 4 months before the pandemic started. Counter to social norms and expectations I felt extremely fortunate because this gave me a massive head start. While getting my GED I joined a program called Fare Start which taught me how to be a barista. At 16, when the pandemic started, I already had my high school equivalency, a job, and was enrolling in college all while my peers were facing the harsh reality of loneliness, fear, & a complete loss of structure. For the first time I felt like an outsider looking in. I had a clear mission, “Save as much money as possible, start a business, and take control of my life.” This seemed different from everyone else I knew at school, but I hope I can be a model for this generation of high-school students who feel stuck in time.
While in lockdown I fortified my love for everything animated. Disney+ just came out, and Hulu and Netflix had a deep library of anime. I always loved this genre of entertainment, and its popularity seemed to spike during the pandemic since people have been stuck at home looking for new shows to watch and mangas to read. 2 years later I have put every dime I earned toward that goal of taking control of my life in a world that seems so out of control. On February 4th Animated Cafe will become a reality, and I think more people my age should do the same thing versus waiting for the world to care.
She has advice for other would-be entrepreneurs, too, and it’s all on the Animated Café website. Starting next Friday, she invites you to come see what her hard work and planning has created. The “animated” theme will feature the proprietor serving guests as “Ana,” a costumed (“family-friendly”) character. “It’s going to be fun!” she promises. She’s planning to serve Dillano’s Coffee and pastries and sandwiches from Seattle’s Favorite. Animated Café will be drive-up, ride-up, or walk-up, 5 am to 5 pm for starters, until she sees what makes sense with the customer flow.