Analog Coffee: after a decade on Capitol Hill, still focused on Summit Ave
With photos and reporting by Alex Garland
Ten years ago on Summit Ave, coffee slingers Danny Hanlon and Tim Hayden set out to bring new energy to Seattle’s cafe scene with a new joint on Capitol Hill and a simple, straightforward approach that was more about fostering the vibe of a favorite neighborhood bar than creating a caffeine corporation. They vowed a decade ago that Analog Coffee would be the only coffee shop they would ever open.
“When we started having those talks in 2008/2009, the Seattle coffee scene seemed like it needed some new blood,” Hayden told CHS this week when we came calling to wish the cafe congratulations on its decade on the Hill. “it was full of great coffee shops but most were roasters. There weren’t a lot of strong independent shops at that time. We really value that independent shop model, we weren’t interested in being roasters. We love interacting with people and creating a special spot in the neighborhood. We decided we would try to make our own version of our favorite shop through Analog.”
As 2021 ends, Analog is moving into its second decade of service and life as a third place in the Summit Ave neighborhood. It has grown — but only in its space. There are no — as of yet, anyhow — Analog Ballards or Analog Beacon Hills. Instead, Analog added a popular little food and drink buddy in the celebration of brunch toast that is tiny B-Side.
Like all Capitol Hill small businesses that survived, Analog will have its COVID-19 era stories of challenge and stress. During the pandemic, Analog faced dipping sales and wondered if they had to cut hours.
Then things turned around.
“We felt very supported by the neighborhood,” Hayden said. “People we hadn’t seen in a while started buying gift cards online. The business then started to pick up. It seemed like even more so than usual, we were the only people our customers were seeing in a day. We started really feeling that love from the neighborhood. Now coming out the other side of it, we feel like we can last through anything after something like that.”
It was tougher, Hayden knows, for Analog’s employees.
“Everyone, during the pandemic, has so much going on internally…during the pandemic, it was really hard to feel like you could be a leader and make sure everyone is able to work and get paid for work, but I also saw a pivot point for us because this was a situation where we didn’t have all the answers and everything was so new everyday, every decision became a collaborative conversation with staff,” Hayden said. “That really helped us stick together. Everybody wanted to figure out the best path together.”
It’s easier for Hanlon and Hayden to see the coffee world through the eyes of the cafe’s workers. Hayden said they met on his first job in the coffee world after he took the gig to make ends meet while trying to build a career in marketing after moving to Seattle. He wasn’t a coffee drinker, but found his people there — “artists, musicians, and it was a fun job.” The longer he stayed, the more he realized how much he loved the job. He always knew he wanted to have his own path career-wise. He met Hanlon. He met his wife there, as well. Hanlon and Hayden would meet after work to discuss ideas to make the job better. He ended up working with Herkimer for four years.
They both had varied experiences in coffee but Hayden said they also felt like they got to a place where he couldn’t move up. Ideas kept coming back to a coffee shop.
Analog opened with daily walk-up service early in 2011 as construction on the Summit Ave cafe continued.
“We felt immediately welcomed,” Hayden remembers. “We had a pop-up doing French press and pour overs for a couple hours a day while doing construction in the afternoon. We did that for about six months. During that time, we gained customers that we still serve today. I served a couple people Wednesday that I met 10 years ago.”
Summit Ave and the surrounding apartment buildings and residents are as much a part of Analog story as anything. “The neighborhood has been absolutely incredible,” Hayden says.
“Seeing the neighborhood embrace us, so many long term friendships we’ve made through this, seeing people have kids, get married, we get postcards from people who moved away and still think of us.”
But coffee is definitely the other part of the story. Hayden says Analog was lucky to be on a good, sustainable path from the first days.
“My general philosophy with the service business, all you you have to do is do a good job, make a good product, be nice to people, and just stick around,” he said. “In the early days, with how few sales we had in a day, each interaction really mattered and you don’t see that everyday, but cumulatively over time you do. That’s how we’re able to stick around”
Another key element? The music and a daytime bar vibe.
“We played records and tapes and very much us wanting to create the vibe of bars we liked going, but also, at the time coffee shops were really dark…we wanted something light and airy and open,” Hayden said. “To us that really speaks to what a coffee shop should be. The first thing you come to in the morning being more bright and inviting in that way. We wanted to open a place where we could work with friends and do business that way.”
With ten years in the Capitol Hill coffee rotation, Analog’s ambitions remain focused on Summit Ave E.
“I feel really proud of us and all the staff who has put in so much work over the years to get us to this place. This kind of feels like the beginning. I’d love to be around to celebrate the 25th anniversary, the 30th anniversary,” Hayden said. “There’s a lot of businesses around Seattle that have that kind of legacy that I appreciate. If we can do it, and do it to a standard where we’re still proud of the work that we’re doing, that’s exactly what I want to do.”
Analog Coffee is located at 235 Summit Ave E. You can learn more at analogcoffee.com.
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