The Olympia Coffee Roasting Company is a local coffee shop with three distinct Olympia locations, each with its own atmosphere. This is especially true of the West Olympia location, Olympia Coffee Roasting II. It is the only store in the chain not to have indoor seating. It is a small shop with some outdoor space to sit but little space to hang out inside.
Ilsina Nazarova, manager at the west side location, and barista Michelle Blanchet both have a long history with the coffee industry and Olympia Coffee Roasting Company in particular. They are especially fond of the atmosphere of the West Olympia location.
When Michelle and Ilsina describe their coffeehouse location, they both emphasize its magic. When Ilsina took over as manager, her predecessor even told her the same, “This place is just plain magic.” They say it is less like entering a coffeehouse, because of its size, and more like the customers are getting settled in their own living room.
And because the store is so small, the baristas chat easily with friendly customers. The relationship between the baristas and customers can be described this way, “We’ve got their back, and they have ours,” Ilsina tells me. The customers are invested in the lives of the staff at Olympia Coffee Roasting II to the point where they offer to do yard work, bring in homemade ice cream and pie and genuinely want to know about their lives. This was particularly true with all the support the staff received when their tip jar was stolen. Michelle and Ilsina both affirmed that there is, “genuine human kindness and goodness here.”
Ilsina has been with Olympia Coffee Roasting Company for four years and has been at the west side location for the past two. She has worked at two of the Olympia Coffee Roasting Company locations, so she is accustomed to the individual personalities, communities and neighborhoods surrounding each of the locations. When she is not working, she rides road and mountain bikes wherever there are trails. In the summer she has a long list of activities to keep her busy. She takes ceramics classes at the Arbutus Folk School, primarily to make beautiful things to drink coffee out of. She also works at the Olympia Co-op on the weekends and makes paper with Jami at Sherwood Press.
Ilsina’s interest in coffee stems from her experience. Her passion for coffee began at the Flaming Eggplant at The Evergreen State College where she was promoted to lead barista. This is where she met Olympia Coffee Roasting Company co-owner Sam Schroeder. When Olympia Coffee Roasting was hiring, she applied.
Michelle began her coffee career ten years ago with Peet’s Coffee in Colorado. Since then, she has worked with every flavor of coffee and in every kind of coffeehouse from big corporations to little places. She likes Olympia Coffee Roasting Company because she thinks it is a good medium. It has the feel and the personality of a local coffeehouse but with the great quality coffee that is difficult for small businesses to access.
Michelle has been with Olympia Coffee Roasting II for nine months, but she has been a regular customer since the beginning. When she is not making coffee and talking with customers, she is either supporting the arts, playing with her dog or cooking. Michelle really enjoys supporting the arts from stand-up comedy to art, music and everything in between. She says she feels Olympia is a good place for the arts and is happy that people are out there making art, both when it is great and even when it is average.
Olympia Coffee Roasting co-owners, Oliver Stormshak and Sam Schroeder, bought the West Olympia business ten years ago. The location had been a coffee shop for about a year prior to this purchase. Though Oliver was not running the company at the time Olympia Coffee Roasting II opened, he was an employee who recommended this direction. He tells me that it was, in fact, based on a building in Westport that has since made the shift from an office to a coffeehouse. As such, the West Olympia location is quite unique because it was neither designed by the management nor has indoor seating and has an entirely different setting.
Even without indoor seating, people still need their coffee. When it is raining, they will stand outside on the patio and drink coffee. Both Ilsina and Michelle have noticed that weekends and the summer are particularly busy times for Olympia Coffee Roasting II.
To visit Olympia Coffee Roasting Company’s West Olympia location, stop in at 1706 Harrison Ave NW. The coffee shop is open Monday – Friday from 6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Saturday from 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.