Last Sunday, Dec. 16, Farzaneh Forouzan, co-owner of Caffe Appassionato, cried softly to herself as she made coffee for her customers. She and her husband, Ali Lotsi, have owned the Queen Anne business for nearly 15 years. But rent went up recently, and Forouzan and Lotsi say they have no choice but to give up their business at the end of the month.
“This is our home, and our customers are our family,” Forouzan said. “Me and my husband work very hard, but we don’t make enough money to pay the higher rent…. I tried to tell the landowner, if you bring the rent down, we are ready to stay here a few more years, but he didn’t accept that.”
The couple bought the business for $90,000. The landowner did not give the couple a chance to sell the business themselves and, instead, will reacquire the facility to sell to someone else for more profit, according to Forouzan.
“It’s very hard for me, and when I think about leaving this place, I start to cry and some of our customers cry, too, when they find out we are leaving,” Forouzan said. “But they can’t do anything.”
The ‘family’ feeling
The small coffee shop, at 1417 Queen Anne Ave. N., sells espresso drinks, sandwiches, soup, pastry and tea. It has approximately 30 regular customers.
Longtime customer PJ Muller loves the shop.
“I moved here from New York 11 years ago, and this was the first cup of coffee I had in Seattle,” said the Queen Anne resident. “Ever since, this is my regular place to come for coffee.”
Muller said Queen Anne will lose out with the loss of this coffee shop.
“You know, you could go any place to get a cup of coffee, but it’s about coming here and talking to [the owners] and the whole family feeling. It’s not going to be the same.”
Co-owner Lotsi was also teary on Sunday, as he made lattes with his head down.
Lotsi and Forouzan are Iranian immigrants, who, over the years, taught many customers about life as immigrants in America. Customers watched the couple’s kids grow up and go to college and medical school, according to John Hennes, a member of a senior group that has met for coffee almost daily at Caffe Appassionato for the last 10 years.
A ‘personal’ community
The Queen Anne Caffè Appassionato’s parent store is a Pacific Northwest roasting company for gourmet coffee. Currently, there are five Caffè Appassionatos in Washington state, including the one in Queen Anne. There are also locations in Massachusetts, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Charley Shore, executive director of the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce said the cafe’s closing is a detriment.
“Anytime one of these businesses goes under, it impacts all of us,” she said. “We are a small community, and all of us want everyone to be successful.”
However, Shore is optimistic. “With forward-thinking, someone else will come in and join the market and do well,” she said.
There are about 40 to 50 small businesses in the Queen Anne area, Shore said. “They are very personal. They become our friends.”