Megan’s Coffee Corner closed Saturday, Feb. 29, marking a decade in Bellevue. The coffee hut, which boasts two drive-thru and one walk-up window, will be replaced by a drive-thru only Starbucks.
If you ask locals, they’ll tell you they are happy to have a Starbucks in the neighborhood, just like the one inside the Safeway about 500 feet from where Megan’s Coffee Corner sits. Or the Starbucks less than a mile away on 156th Avenue Southeast. What locals are not happy about is Starbucks adding another location by supplanting a local coffee stand.
The coffee stand originally opened under different ownership, in 1995. Megan Stoa, who started working at the coffee stand in 2001 and bought it in 2010, said she was disappointed to close down the shop, especially since it would be replaced by a corporate chain.
While her landlord is well within the legal rights, Stoa said she was alerted that he would not be renewing their lease on Feb.7, after a letter from earlier was sent to an old address.
“It was heartbreaking. This is one of the last real neighborhoods in the area,” Stoa said of her store closure and other local shop closures. “You share a connection with many of the customers that I’m just not sure a corporate chain will have.”
Stoa said she was looking forward to spending more time with her kids – and the lack of 3 a.m. alarms.
Karen Seely, a local to Bellevue for the last 18 years, said she has grown a special bond with the staff at Megan’s Coffee Corner.
“They’re more like family,” Seely said. “I’ve even had a couple of (the staff) house sit for me and dog sit for me.”
Seely admitted that as a business owner herself (she owns a hot tub service and repair company) she is partial to female-owned businesses in the community, “but I’m also partial to trying to keep our community, a community,” she said. “They’re more than just drive-by and order a cup of coffee. They’re very, very dear people.”
A Starbucks spokesperson confirmed the company would be opening a new store at that location this summer.
“Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers and we are happy to confirm we will be opening a new location at 15100 SE 38th St. in Bellevue this summer,” the spokesperson said. “The drive-thru only store will employ approximately 15 partners (employees).”
Seely said her experiences with Stoa’s staff have added more to her life than just friendly moments and dog sitting. She said she’s gotten business through connections to other customers and that the staff at Megan’s will often help her find service from other businesses. Seely said her community NextDoor page (a social media for neighbors) was upset to hear that a local staple would no longer be in their community.
One of the baristas Seely has grown close to is Laura French, who has worked at the shop since 2016, commuting 45 minutes to an hour a day for work.
“At first, I was kind of just trying to find a job to get me by, but once I started working here the environment was like something you’ve never really felt before,” French said. “We have a bond with our customers — they tell us about their personal stuff … we’re all friends here.
French complimented her boss’ work ethic, care for employees and kindness overall.
Stoa said she gained those traits from her great-grandfather, who started a carpet business, and her grandfather and mother who later inherited the business.
“I grew up in a family business atmosphere,” Stoa said. “I learned that if the employees aren’t happy, the customers won’t be happy.”
Stoa, French and Seely all said they would miss the community of the coffee shop the most. Getting to know each other, and each other’s families, was what Stoa said inspired her to keep getting up at 3 a.m.
“I’m going to miss the customers – in particular the dogs … (I’m going to miss) seeing kids and their pets grow up,” Stoa said. “I’ve felt like I’m going through a breakup. I’m going through a real grieving process.”