Phinneywood is full of wonderful people and great places that we all wish we knew more about. Local writer Kevin Kozel periodically digs deeper to let us know more in a column we like to call … Hi Neighbor!
Every neighborhood needs a place for the locals to hang out; a home away from home where you can see your friends and meet new people. Prashanthi Reddy found comfort in her local coffee shops while attending college in Pittsburgh and later as a barista in Michigan. She missed that culture in the corporate world and wanted to recreate it in her own way. Now 11 years gone, Makeda and Mingus fills this need for many in the Phinneywood community.
Kevin Kozel (KK): You’ve been here for over a decade now, but what originally made you decide to open a coffee shop in the land of coffee shops?
Prashanthi Reddy (PR): I really wanted a place that would essentially be my club house that focused on good coffee, but also the customers and the community. Kind of like your local watering hole, but coffee style.
KK: You started as Makeda Coffee, and now you are Makeda and Mingus. What has changed in the shop over time?
PR: We’ve had beer and wine since the beginning, but not everyone thought about stopping in for a beer at a place with coffee in its name. So we changed the name to Makeda and Mingus. Mingus is my dog; he’s a rat terrier. He’s also named after Charles Mingus, the jazz musician, which also encompasses the arts and culture of the shop.
KK: And where did Makeda come from?
PR: Makeda is the name of the Queen of Sheba, and the area of Sheba is now Ethiopia and Eritrea, where coffee was first discovered.
KK: There are several shops in the neighborhood, and yet the only one leaving is Starbucks. How do you all co-exist?
PR: I share customers with at least a few coffee shops. I think we all meet different needs. Some have parking, some are geared towards working and studying, while others are more for hanging out. We tend to be more social, so this is the place where you want to hang out, meet your neighbors, catch up on the neighborhood happenings and make a new friend.
KK: You make that point on your signage as well. This is Makeda and Mingus’ “Community Table.” In what ways have you seen your shop become this more over time?
PR: I think the biggest thing I have seen over the years is that parents trust their kids to ride their bike here or meet their friends here. It’s a safe space for their kids to come and hang out as they’re growing up.
KK: We keep saying you’re a coffee shop, but you’re really much more than that. As you’ve said, you offer beer and wine, and you have food as well.
PR: On Monday nights we have a craft night where I make soup and mac and cheese. Thursday night I make a homestyle south Indian dinner. We do have some of these things throughout the week, but I highlight it by day to show off more of our offerings.
KK: Your shop is just around the corner from Greenwood Avenue, so it’s a little less visible, but also keeps you off the busier street. Has that hurt or helped you?
PR: A little of both. I bought it as a turnkey, so it already had an established clientele and word-of-mouth worked out really well. Then around 2016 we saw a little downturn in business and that coincided with the changes in the housing market in the area. As the neighborhood started changing it was also changing my business. In the very beginning one of my coffee mentors told me, “If you want to have a neighborhood coffee shop, make the neighborhood feel like they own the shop.” So I started marketing from square one and had to build up the clientele again.
KK: How has the PNA helped make you a part of the community?
PR: I love having the PNA. It’s an anchor for the neighborhood. I can’t think of many other neighborhoods that have something similar to it. They’re really helpful for businesses and really help amplify what you’re doing. They already have a lot of neighborhood events so there isn’t pressure to do everything. You can do what works for you at a given time.
KK: Do you think your shop would do as well in another neighborhood?
PR: This neighborhood really suits us. Since the beginning I’ve felt that PhinneyWood is a small town in a medium-sized city. You do know your neighbors here. I don’t want to call the “Seattle freeze” a myth, but I haven’t experienced it. In this neighborhood people know each other really well.
KK: As PhinneyWood continues to change, how do you see Makeda and Mingus changing?
PR: I really view myself as a part of the community. I live in the neighborhood and want to provide a space, in whatever capacity, that is for the folks that live here as well. My goal is to stay flexible and available for whatever the neighborhood needs.
If you want to meet Prashanthi, or more of your fellow neighbors, stop by Makeda and Mingus for a drink or bite to eat. It can be found at 153 N 78th Street.