Cupid, coffee and community coalesce at Burien Press
By Ken Robinson
Why would a guy who grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, leave that idyllic place and move to Burien, Washington?
We don’t know the answer. But we’re glad he is here watching him grow from a young newcomer to a contributing community member.
HIs name is Matt Wendland. He is 33. He came to Burien when he was 21. He was looking for work and landed a job at Trader Joe’s as one of that store’s do-everything workers.
He says he was making a living doing small business consulting and writing then. He had grown up in a small business family. His dad owned a restaurant. He figured he could eventually do that too.
Then Cupid stepped in. He helped a young woman find something at Trader Joe’s. She came through his line to pay. She bought some ingredients to make cookies. He asked her if she was going to bring some back when baked. She did. They got married in 2011.
Catherine, a Highline High grad, became Mrs. Wendland. She was an intern at the City of Seattle and was for a time an Expedia employee. Now she is a full-time geographer at the city.
Matt and Catherine got a place together in North Hill (Des Moines) and then got their first house in Chelsea Park. They moved again, this time to gramma’s house in Seahurst and have just finished remodeling it.
They liked the community vibe of Burien and used to hang out at a little coffee shop on 152nd in the middle of the block. So they bought the place.
He said: “We really wanted to be in a community we loved. I loved Burien since I moved here. It is uniquely situated to be somewhat of a small community and make an impact if you want to but still have benefits of living in a world-class city.”
Eight years ago, Matt joined the Economic Development board for Burien and remains a board member.
“When I was first appointed, there some some long-term members. I felt I was in a fortunate place to learn about the community. And to hear all the stories from people like Dough Moreland and Rose Clark, Brian Bennett, Gordon Shaw and Joan McGilton who have been working here for decades.”
“Getting to know the community on that level helped me establish the kind of business we want to have.”
Who would try to run a coffee shop in a town with four Starbucks locations?
Matt and Catherine Wendland would.
“We had one employee when we began operating Burien Press. Ian worked 40 hours and then my wife and I worked the rest of the hours, usually 14-hour days.”
“I think there are people who go to Starbucks and people who come here. They are not necessarily the same people. We have a very different business. We both serve coffee. We are a hospitality company. We are here to host people like they were at our house. We find them a place to land to do whatever they are doing.”
The business started slowly
“At the beginning, I had no idea how little I did not know. I found out Burien wanted us to be successful and I found out we did not want to give them a reason not to succeed. I really felt like we had a huge amount of community support. I’ve seen that with a lot of businesses even if they end up closing. It does not mean they didn’t do a good job.
“Burien is an extremely welcoming place. It has a broad background of cultures and beliefs and views on the world.
“I am personally inclined to shop at businesses I know. People want to relate to our enterprise. When I show up, people can see the owner. A lot of our guests are neighbors.”
A sense of the future
Matt Wendland has a sense of the future. “People who came before were building a strong foundation of community values. Those leaders paved the way. If we make sure we are at the table and clear about what we want, I feel we can maintain what we have and welcome change that comes, such as light rail. We do not have to stay small.”
Wendland said that if he could wave a magic wand, it would be to continue improving an investment in education. “The more we invest in setting up connections between assets, the better off we will be.”
Wendland said “Downtown Burien is just one neighborhood. Burien is a large of many neighborhoods that have their own story.”
“If we go down the road for a performing arts center, we are situated to take advantage of that. We have a huge arts community. People who stop in our shop say they like our festivals and restaurants and so on.
“An unofficial tax on people”
“Light rail. The challenge is, we need to be at the table. Workers commute for hours to get to work.
We have to keep up in infrastructure development. Sitting in traffic is an unofficial tax on people.”
“I think we are a community that is willing to identify challenges an take them on. I don’t expect the world to be a perfect place.”
Three years ago, Wendland took his philosophy down the road to White Center, opening Moonshot Coffee on 16th S.W. “We saw it as an opportunity to make it part of Highline (two ends of one community). “White Center is wonderful and has a lot of great people in it.It is a whole different but awesome experience.”
The name of the White Center location comes from a link between a park named Astroland there and the JFK speech in 1962 that started the space race.
Facts: Burien Press now serves select wines and beers (not available at Moonshot); sell on certified fair-for-all coffee.
“I think that one our biggest assets is our staff. We have a broad group and all bring the same spirit and welcoming spirits and outlook. Sometimes people who get up at 5 a.m. don’t get recognition.
“Operating at this level is not the most efficient way. But it is the way that is rising the tide for everybody,” Wendland said.