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For the Owners of 701 Coffee, Home is Where Your Work Is

The Brereton family, (l to r) Dietra, Rachel, Kiyah, Sara Mae and Keetn, say they benefit from the close quarters of having their home above their coffee shop 701 Coffee.

Joshua Huston


It’s a really good thing that the Brereton family likes each other. If they didn’t, it could get pretty ugly, with the six of them living together in a studio apartment above their family-run café, 701 Coffee. 

But the reality of renting separate spaces for home and work was unaffordable, so the two had to be commingled if the Breretons wanted to pursue their dream of opening a café. So in the fall of 2014, the family moved from their three-bedroom apartment to the studio on the corner of East Cherry Street and 23rd Avenue in the Central District and began fixing up the café below them. 

A year ago, 701 Coffee — which serves vegan coffee drinks, smoothies, pastries, sandwiches and other foods — opened its doors. 

When resources are limited, “you have to make those compromises,” says owner Sara Mae Brereton. “This is the way that a lot of small businesses start off, but people don’t talk about it.”

Brereton, who worked hanging drywall for 20 years, was eager to move into a career she loved. Her wife, Rachel, is still a driver for UPS during the week, but works Saturdays at the café. Their kids — ages 18, 17 and twin 14-year-olds — help out too.  


The family sold most of their belongings when they moved to the studio, and slowly began purchasing the café items they needed. 


Brereton says that she sometimes goes to other coffee shops when she needs a little space to get work done, but that the upsides to living in tight quarters outweigh the challenges. 


“We have this idea in America that we need all of this space,” she says. “As stressful as it is sometimes for all of us, there is something about waking up in the morning and the heat is off, even in winter, and everybody’s body heat is warming the room, and everybody is here. 


“I’m not saying I want to continue this,” she says, “but there’s an experience we get to have being in this confined space, a closeness that is not there in a three-bedroom apartment.” 


The business got off to a strong start, Brereton says, and was welcomed by the community, which includes Garfield High School, kitty-corner from the café. They were serving up to 80 customers a day, but the business has taken a serious hit recently due to a road construction project that’s tearing up 23rd Avenue. 


The family had hoped they’d soon be able to move out of the studio and turn it into a bakery and area to prepare their homemade chai, but that plan is on hold. The Breretons and other business owners suffering due to the road project are asking the city for financial help.


Brereton is hopeful that the café will survive and they’ll earn enough to find a larger home. “Everyone is looking forward to moving into a bigger place eventually,” she says. “I said when we do, everyone is going to feel a little lonely.”


701 23rd Ave., Seattle. 779-5482  


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