Cafe Omeros has a wide variety of sandwiches and snacks to choose from.
Cafe Omeros has a wide variety of sandwiches and snacks to choose from.
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Alissa Leinonen has opened her fourth Gourmondo Cafe, the latest in the Omeros building in Lower Queen Anne.

Cafe Omeros opened Monday, Aug. 19, at 201 Elliot Ave. W., and is the tenth overall cafe that Gourmondo operates, but six are corporate spots.

"We chose this location… because we want it to be relevant to the customer base in the area," Leinonen said. "You don’t grow for the sake of growth, you grow intentionally. When you find a great partner, that’s so critical; that’s the foundation of the success.”

Leinonen has teamed up with Amazon for her cafes in the past, but has found two new partners for the latest iteration of her eateries. These latest partners include Omeros and BioMed Realty.

“We were looking for the right opportunity…" Leinonen said. "When this one came up — it’s a great location. It’s a great partner. It makes sense for us.”

The cafe has a soft and intimate design with cafe-style seating, offering a menu of food that Leinonen said caters to "everything that we do really well."

The cafe boasts a full coffee bar, a grab-n-go deli, a bakery and a micro-market.

While the cafe serves sandwiches, pastries, salad and other standard deli fare, Leinonen said she prides herself and the company for using quality, locally sourced, with some vital vendors in Pike Place Market. She also draws her recipes from her own experience and memories, giving the cafes a personal touch.

“When I was 11, my dad said we can go anywhere in the world, and he took me to Paris. I remember getting off the plane and I was starving, Leinonen said, “ and they had these little street vendors, and they sold baguette sandwiches with Brie. I just thought, ‘Oh, this is magic! I love it!’"

As a result, Leinonen made one of the first menu items for Gourmondo a baguette sandwich with Brie and green apple.

"And it’s still my favorite, from 24 years ago,” she said.

In addition, the place offers space for table-top gaming and a modest — but targeted — inventory of games to play.

"We love (Gourmondo) because we learned how to get it right in a manner that is successful for us,” Leinonen said. "This cafe is full of our greatest hits."

The cafe's formula was developed over a number of years, dating all the way back to 1996, when Leinonen opened the first Gourmondo as a hole-in-the-wall that didn't find much success. After a couple years, Leinonen closed the storefront and transitioned the company into a corporate-lunches and catering business.

The new direction paid off, and Leinonen was able to take a risk in 2006, when she signed a contract to open a couple corporate-focused cafes. The move ended up being too much for the company to handle all at once, so Leinonen said she had to let the contract go. In spite of the setback, she learned some valuable lessons that would help her move forward.

Specifically, Leinonen said she learned about the importance of timing and preparation, so she bided her time until 2010, building up other aspects of the company until she ventured back into the cafe side of the business. Leinonen eventually entered into another cafe agreement, this time with Amazon, in 2012.

The new direction stuck, and the cafe division is now a recognizable aspect of Gourmondo's business strategy.

There are 253 individuals employed by Gourmondo within several divisions: the cafe division; the box-lunch division, which serves 500-1,000 box lunches a day; the corporate buffets division, which delivers breakfast and lunch all over the city and surrounding areas; and the formal customized catering division. These divisions serve about 4,000 people every day.

Leinonen said her employees are her greatest asset.

“You can never underestimate the power of really good talent, and I think if there is anything that speaks to the success of Gourmondo, it is the teams," Leinonen said. "They are really the magic of the company. And what makes us great is their dedication and their commitment, and we really take talent seriously.”

Tyler Hefford-Anderson, the chef in charge of the cafe division's food services, said working his job helps create a meaningful community around him, creating more value in his life.

“One of the things I really enjoy about working with Gourmondo is we live and breathe a lot of the values of supporting community and supporting self," Hefford-Anderson said. "And that goes not only from the standpoint of the community as a whole but also our employees and our team.”

As the head of food services at Gourmondo's cafe division, Hefford-Anderson has an intimate understanding of all its cafes. So far, he said this new Lower Queen Anne location doesn't disappoint.

“I love this location," he said. "It’s a lot of fun. It’s a different vibe — and that’s one of the great things about our cafe system is that they are all slightly different and they all have a different personality.”

The Cafe Omeros location’s hours are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Call 206-587-0190 or visit gourmondoco.com for more information.