Intentionalist: Small Business, Big Support – southseattleemerald.com

by Jax Kiel

Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters


This April marks Intentionalist’s three year anniversary. Long before our small business database hit 3,000 listings and back when our social media following was primarily friends and family, there were some special small business owners who believed in our vision. They were excited about our mission to make it easier for all of us to support local businesses at the heart of our communities through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop.

Our founder, Laura Clise, brought Intentionalist online in April 2018 with the support of a handful of diverse small businesses in the Seattle area who shared her belief that where we spend our money matters. These business owners have been generous with their time and resources from the earliest days of Intentionalist. As we celebrate three years of being intentional, spending like it matters, and building community, we recognize that we are where we are today because of the diverse people behind the small businesses we love.

The following Seattle eateries have been inspiring and supporting us from day one. For our third birthday, Intentionalist is excited to celebrate these businesses that have been supporting us from the start. 

Kezira Cafe

Nigist Kidane standing in Rose Cafe, her vegetarian coffee shop in Hillman City. (Photo: Intentionalist)

When Nigist Kidane moved to Seattle, there were two things she knew for sure: she had always wanted to work for herself and she loved to cook and bake. Out of these two ideas, she opened Kezira Cafe. Nigist named her Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant after a neighborhood in her hometown of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia that is known for its sense of togetherness and community. Her Eritrean parents and the city Nigist grew up in influenced Kezira Cafe’s menu, decorations, and sense of community. The walls are lined with traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean decorations, which Nigist changes regularly to showcase different art. She also performs traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, with Ethiopian coffee roasted fresh in-house. Nigist and her staff keep Kezira Cafe looking beautiful, tasting delicious, and welcoming to all. 

While Kezira Cafe has plenty of delicious poultry, beef, and lamb options, Nigist’s personal favorite item on the menu shows off the vegetarian side. The veggie platter, which serves two people, features six different vegetable based dishes. The colorful plate is loaded with kik wot (yellow split peas), missir wot (red lentils), and adess (green lentils). In addition to the peas and lentils, the platter comes with gommen (collared greens), alicha (cabbage, carrots, potatoes), and fasolia (string green beans). Why choose a dish when you can try a bit of everything?

“A small business is not easy to run. Especially right now, during [COVID-19.] It is harder to find people to hire and takes a lot to keep the business open … Each customer who comes in to support me makes me motivated to keep going.”

— Nigist Kidane

Marjorie

Donna Moodie, owner of Marjorie, sitting with an order of Miss Marjorie’s Steel Drum Plantain Chips and a cocktail. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Marjorie was started as a way for owner Donna Moodie to demonstrate her passion for cooking and gathering people together using quality ingredients and as an honor to her mom who inspired her to think, cook, and eat that way. The name pays homage to Donna’s mother, who was always able to bring people together to enjoy “scratch” cooking and warm hospitality. The unique restaurant uses high quality and local ingredients to create a globally inspired menu, including Donna’s Jamaican roots. There are three dishes Donna would serve as an introduction to Marjorie: Their signature dish, plantains served with a variety of sauces. Then their jerk chicken, which nods to her roots. And for dessert, the bread pudding that has been on the menu since Marjorie opened. These three dishes alone are enough for one-time customers to become regulars. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic it’s been important to Donna to be in tune with the needs of her neighborhood and to connect with similar small businesses. Marjorie has expanded its patio and take-out capabilities. Donna said the restaurant has also been working with nonprofits to help them find solutions in place of charity galas and fundraisers. She said the community is dedicated to the preservation of the neighborhood. They want to keep Seattle lively, keep it diverse, and they want to build a connection with other small businesses.

“Small businesses create the fabric for vibrancy in our city. They offer a unique landscape that promotes diversity, independence, and a unique quality that should be supported in any city. I think it’s a lot of what makes Seattle lively and vibrant. Small businesses also help you support and see this vibrancy in the neighborhoods you aren’t from.” 

— Donna Moodie

Elsom Cellars

Elsom Cellars owner Jody Elsom standing behind a bar in Elsom’s tasting room. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Jody Elsom has been producing 100% local Washington wine from Washington vineyards at her winery Elsom Cellars since 2006. Jody loved wine and wanted to make wine, but also wanted to bring people together through her winemaking. She created Elsom Cellars based on the sense of community wine helps to develop when everyone gathers around the table, pairs a glass of wine with great food, and comes out friends in the end. The tasting room at Elsom Cellars is designed to be a respite from the chaos of everyday life, with some rustic charm. Jody said it’s meant to be a place to relax. More than anything else, Jody is excited for people to continue to visit Elsom. They spread out tables and have an outdoor dining space available, prioritizing the safety and comfort of their customers. 

During the first week of May, Jody plans on releasing her first white wines — an achievement she laughs at, because she used to swear she’d never make a white wine. Elsom Cellars will be selling an Albariño — Jody’s personal favorite — and a Viogneir. The Albariño is full of tropical components, has just the right acidity, and is shaping up to be the perfect summer white wine. 

“Small businesses are really what creates that diversity in business. All the small businesses I love to work with are all passionate about what they are doing. They care so much about the product they are creating [and] the experience people are having. It would just be so sterile if you didn’t have the small businesses. We need them.”

— Jody Elsom


Jax Kiel is a student journalist at Western Washington University and an intern at Intentionalist.

📸 Featured image: Elsom Cellars’ new white wine, Albariño. (Photo: Elsom Cellars)

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