Once upon a time the vision for the stand alone business at Sawyer Village on Kent-Kangley Road and Southeast 216th Street was for a bank with a drive through.
On Oct. 10, though, Ristrettos will open as a coffee shop and wine bar in the plaza.
Jeff Potter, director of land development for Maple Valley-based Curtis Lang Custom Homes, which owns the property, explained that when the team was developing a concept for the shopping center it included a variety of uses ranging from doctor’s offices to small boutique shops.
It has all that now with the Valley Medical Center Clinic, for example, as well as a Subway, Get Hot! Yoga and Bike Masters and Boards.
All Sawyer Village needed was something to go in that standalone spot on the southeast end of the property.
“When we were looking for tenants (in 2008) we weren’t getting a great deal of interest in this site,” from banks, Potter said. “At the time, the city didn’t allow drive-throughs for anything but banks and drug stores. We decided whatever we wanted to have on this pad, we needed the zoning amended. Ultimately about a year later we were able to get the allowance to have a drive through for our coffee shop. That allowed us to go out and market this site.”
Potter noted that Lang has connections through his business where he deals with developers and home builders who also know the coffee and wine industries as well as the restaurant business. Through talking with those resources, Lang discovered putting a coffee shop and wine bar on the site was something he was interested in, Potter said.
“We knew that it was a good location because of the traffic counts,” Potter said. “We started laying out what we could put here. This pad was originally approved for a 3,500-square-foot building, say a bank and maybe a restaurant or coffee shop. We decided if we were going to do a coffee shop that it was cost effective for now not to build a whole (3,500-square-foot) building. Let’s make this a marquee building just for this one user and that’s how we ended up with an 1,800 square foot building, that includes the upstairs.”
As they discussed the concept with the architecture firm, the plans for the site evolved, Potter said.
They wanted to make it a unique building and to take advantage of the view of Mount Rainier.
“We ended up raising our roof line, it’s called a butterfly roof, so we could maximize the view of Rainier,” Potter said. “Curtis wanted to step it up. We wanted to make it a memorable experience, not just get in, get your coffee and get out.”
As the plan continued to evolve and the concept expanded to include wine, Potter said, the idea of having a larger, more diverse food menu made sense.
To that end, there are going to be 25 employees at Ristrettos, in order to fully staff the hours it will be open.
Potter explained that in order to create a unique, welcoming and comfortable environment, there are a number of re-used and recycled materials such as wormwood from a pier in the Puget Sound region that was placed in the walls, posts on the patio came from Mount Rainier National Park, as well as old rough cedar pieces from old construction sites.
A metal worker from Enumclaw made a number of copper pieces to give the place a warm, lived-in feel.
“There’s been a lot of thought put into the details,” Potter said. “The intent of the atmosphere should be comfortable. It should be like you’re hanging out at home in a nice room in your house and socializing.”
Lang hired Jake Potter, the 25-year-old son of Potter, who has a business degree with an emphasis in finance from the University of Washington as well as experience in the wine and food service industries.
“The key for Jake’s hiring process is presentation, how they treat people, because service has to be the No. 1 consideration here,” Potter said of his son. “How you treat people is what gets people to talk about the business in a positive way.”
Potter coaches youth volleyball and the mothers of his players have told him they’re excited to have another venue to meet people and he thinks it’ll be a great place for that.
“We think there’s enough people out there interested, we think there’s enough demand to support healthy competition,” he said. “We’re really excited about it, to get this ball rolling and to provide another opportunity for people in this community to socially connect.”