Disappointment with Nook’s departure, but new owner hopes to continue tradition

Sound Coffee & Morsel

Sound Coffee & Morsel -

Kekoa Chin-Hidano, co-owner of the new cafe Sound Coffee and Morsel, scoops out homemade bacon jam for a customer. Chin-Hidano was employed at The Nook before it closed its doors.


Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

After a long run in the U District, the Nook on the Ave closed its doors on April 14. However, a new shop recently had its grand opening in the Nook’s former location, hoping to continue on with the Nook’s success.

Kekoa Chin-Hidano, the owner and barista at Sound Coffee and Morsel (4754 University Way NE), explained that when he had previously worked with the owners of the Nook, Aki Woodward and Alex Green, they had co-shared the space between them, with the Nook primarily focusing on food and Sound Coffee focusing on coffee. The two of them, Chin-Hidano said, worked together as a “united front” to serve people well.

“It was wonderful … but [Woodward] tired herself out trying to do all the food alone. She didn’t want to hire anyone else because she wasn’t sure that the level of business would continue. I was really confident that she wasn’t going to have a problem [with business] and really wanted to continue with Sound Coffee and Nook,” Chin-Hidano said. “But she decided she wanted to go travel and … see where she wanted to be in the future so she can take steps in order to be where she wants to be in the future.”

A statement on the Nook’s website voiced the owners’ appreciation for their customers over the years.

“We had a modest dream of serving homestyle food made from scratch with wholesome ingredients, and always keeping it affordable,” reads the post. “We never imagined that we would one day have lines at our door before we opened or sell out of biscuits almost every day. It went far beyond our expectations and we really have our customers to thank (big time) for spreading the word, hanging in there with us through our changes, and for inspiring us with all the love for our biscuits.”

Despite the intentions of the Nook’s owners to close, this caused a display of support for the Nook by members of the UW community. The impending closure led to the creation of a petition on Change.org asking for the Nook to “reconsider its closure.”

Kartik Rishi, an informatics major at the UW, created the Nook petition. In it, he wrote how “the Nook has been a staple for quality artisan biscuits and coffee and we’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching it grow locally and nationally.”

Rishi said the original motivation to create the petition was from his personal experience and history at the Nook.

“Every so often … we [Rishi and his girlfriend] would go down for breakfast and make a thing out of it where we would get biscuits and gravy and then [later] go to the Farmer’s Market,” Rishi said. “It all kind of just played into this nice summer day that you would have.”

Rishi said the Nook was unique in the sense that it provided good food in an area not typically known for the quality of its cuisine.

“I guess that with it gone, it’s a piece that when you think of University District cuisine, there’s not much that is good per se,” Rishi said. “Having that piece of the University District leave or gone for now temporarily is tough to see.”

Similar sentiments were displayed by others who signed the petition. One post raved about the Nook’s biscuits and espresso, while another talked about bringing people from out of town to show off.

“The biscuits were a staple of Nook, they were what people came for,” Chin-Hidano said. “We’ve been open for about a week, [and] a lot of the regulars have come back already, and its been wonderful serving them, and they’ve been super pleased.”

Some people from “out of town” also included the well-known Anthony Bourdain from “The Layover” on the Travel Channel, a travel and food show advising travelers what to eat, see, and do within 24 to 48 hours in a city.

Chin-Hidano said that Sound Coffee and Morsel will try to continue with high quality food even with the Nook’s departure, hoping to achieve this by hiring people he knows who care. Recognizing he was more of a “coffee guy,” Chin-Hidano hired his friend Domingo to cook the food for the shop, who he called “super talented” and “super passionate.”

“That’s what I’m about: people that care about what they are doing and want to be there and want to produce high quality food and beverages and care about making people happy,” Chin-Hidano said.

Rishi said he hopes to promote “solidarity” regarding the closure.

“It’s a form of solidarity saying that me and 17 to 20 others of us are in solidarity standing to say there is a level or standard that we expect of our food at the Ave, and losing a great source of great cuisine in this area kinda sucks,” Rishi said. “If anything, you could see it as people committing to the idea or supporting groups that do good food.”

Based on his experience at the Nook, Chin-Hidano said he hopes to build upon their legacy, continuing to serve people in the U-District.

“We are here to serve people — that’s the most important part,” Chin-Hidano said. “Of course we serve great coffee and serve great food, but it’s about serving those to people and making sure that they [the people] are taken care of.”

Reach reporter Ben Swanson at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter:@benatUW

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