Business

Do the Brew: New Bellevue store teaches gourmet coffee making at home

Seattle Coffee Gear employee Dori Lowman brews a shot of espresso inside the recently-opened downtown Bellevue store. - Brandon Macz
Seattle Coffee Gear employee Dori Lowman brews a shot of espresso inside the recently-opened downtown Bellevue store.
— image credit: Brandon Macz

Seattle Coffee Gear is blending in downtown Bellevue nicely, says owner Victor Gehlen, with an array of machinery available to home brewers looking to perk up their morning ritual.

A Montana native, Gehlen moved to Lynwood 12 years ago where he opened his first Seattle Coffee Gear store in 2007."We had really bad coffee in Montana," he said. "I didn't even realize there was better coffee out there until I visited Seattle."

Gehlen said the idea of offering a place where people can see and learn about the types of coffee and espresso machines on the market came after he purchased one online, the website offering little he could glean about its quality.Seattle Coffee Gear, which opened its Bellevue store Sept. 14, allows customers to peruse a variety of models and takes some of the anxiety out of brewing through the assistance of its staff, who undergo several weeks of training. They will even demonstrate by brewing a shot of espresso for customers needing to stay alert.

Manager Chris Galbreath said Seattle Coffee Gear doesn't look for baristas to staff its stores, and not all of the more than 50 employees across both locations even drink coffee.

"I think we have a lot of home brewers that would approach this the same way our customers would," he said.

Seattle Coffee Gear also does a lot of business online, Gehlen said, adding his website offers detailed information about the products he sells. He said store employees will also help out those with machines at home who need assistance and will fix up damaged products.

"We also do a lot of free repairs," Gehlen said, "whether you bought it from us or not."

The opening of the Bellevue store is one of 28 Seattle Coffee Gears planned to be opened with a Seattle location expected to open in February. Gehlen said he named his stores because of the strong correlation between Seattle and Coffee."

Lynwood Coffee Gear didn't really fit well," he said. "The word, Seattle, has really helped us grow elsewhere outside of Seattle. Everybody thinks of Seattle and coffee together."

The Bellevue store is doing better than expected, Gehlen said of his niche business. He added employees don't work on commission, so customers aren't pressured into buying more than they need."We want to sort of help customers on their journey for what they want," he said.

Denise Nelson of Tenino and her husband, Jeff, were in Bellevue on Monday running several errands, and stopped in after seeing the store's website."They have a really cool website with video presentations," she said. "Super people - absolutely super people. No pressure, just willing to help."

Galbreath showed the Nelsons several models in their price range, rang them up in under 15 minutes and carried their purchase to their car."

I'm excited to head home and start some coffee tonight," Nelson said.

Seattle Coffee Gear is located at 10692 NE Eighth St., and open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Sunday. The store can be reached at (425) 451-7292.

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