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Seattle Espresso opens in Koza

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-03-14

Seattle Espresso, a chain of coffee shops on Okinawa serving the finest in flavored coffees, recently opened its first off-base branch near Kadena Gate 2 Street. It has received quite a lot of attention from the locals, and business has started to soar. The new Seattle Espresso had its grand opening on Feb. 28 and quickly earned a solid reputation for good coffee after giving away 700 free cups of the brew on its first day. Owner Michihito Ara says he expected about 10 percent of his first-day customers to return the next day, but more than 350 people came back on March 1. Most locals don’t have access to the military bases, so they had never been to any of the Seattle Espressos on Kadena or Futenma or to the Courtney Connect Cafe, but after checking out the new shop at its grand opening, many customers came back for another cup.

Part of the reason for the shop’s success is due to its location. Sitting just north of Kadena Gate 2 Street and the Goya four-corners intersection, it is easily accessible to area shoppers and to Okinawa City residents driving to and from work. The shop has a few points of focus that also contribute to its success: speed, flavor and the power of the young generation. When dropping by Seattle Espresso, there is no wait; the employees have been trained to make quality coffee in less than two minutes. So, you can actually leave your car outside the shop, run in, get your coffee and run back out without having to worry about your car getting towed. Also, Ara once lived in Seattle and was inspired by Starbucks coffee, so he trained his staff to make delicious coffee. He says that because his employees are all young, they have the power of the young generation to get things done fast and efficiently.

Ara went to Seattle in 1991 to learn English. He stayed for two years, planning to go to university, but he started to consider what he wanted to do with his life. Finally, he chose to pursue business. “In Seattle, I was impressed by Starbucks,” he says. “I went there three times a day and thought, ‘When I go home, I won’t be able to drink this anymore.’ So, the idea of starting a business serving flavored coffees in Okinawa began.” After this, he decided to establish Seattle Espresso, and soon it had branches opening up on various bases.

Seattle Espresso has English menus on the counter, and you can use dollars here. They are open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The coffee shop serves various cappuccinos, mochas, white mocha, cafe au lait, lattes, house specialties and other drinks including hot chocolate, fruit-flavored smoothies, cappuccino shakes, Italian sodas and more. There are currently 46 drinks on the menu, all costing between ¥280 and ¥420. Seattle Espresso also sells bagels and scones, and after making your first purchase, they will give you a stamp card with its first stamp. After getting 10 stamps, your next drink is free.

In the future, Ara hopes to open other branches of Seattle Espresso throughout the island, and then he wants to expand to mainland Japan. The quality is there, and everything is made quickly. No matter whether you are dropping by to get a hot coffee before heading to work or coming at night to relax with a mocha, you’ll surely be impressed with the new Seattle Espresso.

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