The corner of 4th Avenue and Plum Street describes the eastern boundary of downtown Olympia, and these days, the lot is jam-packed with people both looking for lunch and for a quick cup of coffee.

greene realtyIn 1995, Cynthia “Cyndi” Dickson founded The Filling Station Espresso drive-thru in a lot on the edge of the downtown core. At that time, drive-thru espresso spots weren’t nearly as common as they can seem to be now, and the happily situated cafe became an institution.

After twenty years of running the cafe, Cyndi passed away last year. Downtown Olympia felt her absence, and many people wondered what would become of the beloved cafe. Her daughter Carissa Dickson has managed The Filling Station for the last year, while carefully looking for owners who could guide it with the same amount of passion that Cyndi had. Almost all of the old employees stayed on, some of whom have been with The Filling Station for more than ten years, and the fantastically loyal customer base stayed strong as well.

food trucks olympia
Carissa Dickson, Lisa and Jacob David, and Carissa’s husband Gaelen Fechner stand together on the date of purchase of The Filling Station.

Cyndi was there every day, smiling and pleased to see her visitors. If the legacy she left was to continue, the cafe and the lot both needed someone who could put the same amount of love and attention into the venture over a long period of time.

“It has become a hub, certainly,” said Jacob David, who bought The Filling Station in April with his sister Lisa. “Cyndi developed an incredibly loyal following very early on, and those people are all still here.”

The Davids, who also run the adjacent Assyrian food truck Nineveh, have taken it on in a more permanent capacity than Carissa could, and with the stated goal of preserving Cyndi’s long legacy in Olympia.

food truck olympia
Nineveh Assyrian food truck sits just off 4th Avenue at Plum Street.

“A lot of this is here now because Cyndi took such excellent care of the property when she was managing it,” said Jacob.

Three firmly entrenched food trucks are parked on the corner of Plum and 4th Avenue – Nineveh Assyrian, Arepa Latin Street Food, and California Tacos all share the space, as well as Abby’s Cupcakes in a hard-to-miss pink building. The bountiful vegetation that surrounds the seating area (and almost hides an enormous cat named Howie) runs up to the Star Wars mural, a mural that some Olympians know as well as the intersection at which it stands. In a parking lot that on busy days can most charitably be described as “hectic,” Cyndi kept things running smoothly and happily.

Nineveh is a cornerstone of what Jacob has come to think of fondly as “Olympia’s international food court,” a development which illustrates part of what makes The Filling Station so special. Five years ago, there was only the beloved California Tacos truck and an empty expanse. Cyndi was able to grow the vacant area into the destination it has become, which is no mean feat.

food trucks olympia
The “international food court” at the Filling Station is always busy.

This kind of close personal management is what Jacob and Lisa will be taking over. “I’d like to see a fourth food truck in here sometime soon,” Jacob said. “We have a couple of ideas for that that we’re working on.” I asked if he could tell me what some of them were. “Not right now,” he said, “but I’m excited.” Knowing what I know of Jacob’s excellent taste, I’m excited, too.

The legacy of the lot as a gathering point for the community, with The Filling Station as its nucleus, is in large part what the Davids plan to preserve. Jacob says that the few changes to the cafe itself that they have in store will only improve what’s already there, not reformulate a successful and very much beloved local business.

“We’re doing a few things that we hope will broaden The Filling Station’s base, like bringing in coffee from Olympia Coffee Roasting Company,” said Jacob. “We’ll still have the standard fare, but you’ll also be able to get something simple, like an americano.” I smiled at this. “It’ll be really great coffee,” he said.

food trucks olympia
Howie can often be seen lurking around the food trucks.

Other changes will be less far-reaching. The Davids, who run a very successful catering enterprise and provide sandwiches and salads to several other places downtown, have also started making and selling breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos through the cafe, and their smoothies are all real fruit, all the time. The Filling Station is a cafe that’s open before much of the working world is awake, and now they have everything you might need to get moving.

The cafe is a part of Olympia’s solid downtown, even though it sits on the edge. Noted local sign painter Ira Coyne repainted it recently, and his signature style marks it as a part of the core of downtown businesses, businesses that make Olympia such a colorful place. The Davids believe that it’s important to honor those who, like Cyndi, spent their lives invested in the city they loved.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to make some great coffee while you’re at it.

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