After more than two years, Rainier Beach’s Redwing Cafe is reopening for business

by Phil Manzano

After more than two years, the Redwing Cafe in Rainier Beach is open — another sign of the business emerging from the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Redwing is located on South 57th Avenue just off Rainier Avenue South, the center of an eclectic group of small businesses that range from Drae’s Lake Route to Jude’s to Defined Salon. Around the corner on Rainier Avenue is Creamy Cone Café, and a little further down and across from the future Detective Cookie Chess Park is King Donuts (which will move a few blocks north to the former Beach Bakery site at 7820 Rainier Ave. S .).

Owner Anthony Campbell remembers meeting the entire staff as the pandemic unfolded in 2020. They were watching what was happening in Italy with COVID-19 when they decided to close on March 13. They thought it would last a few weeks, but as the crisis deepened, Campbell realized they wouldn’t open soon.

The idea behind Redwing was to be a welcoming space for the neighborhood. There was no clear way to do this with the pandemic.

“We’ve always planned to reopen at some point,” Campbell said. “We were thinking of just doing a take-home window. But we realized that one of the main goals here is to have a space for the community to come together, so a takeaway window wasn’t going to do it.”

There was also concern that some of the cafe’s regulars, who were over 90, were falling ill.

Instead, Anthony took the time to paint and renovate the kitchen and outdoor seating area. In addition, Redwing’s Facebook page has become a place where she supports local businesses around the block and the city.

“With social media, we decided to highlight other neighborhood businesses that are open,” Campbell said. “Because, you know, it’s been hard for anybody to stay open, so we just wanted to encourage [people to support them].”

Redwing welcomes neighborhood business Drae’s Lake Route to social media.

Campbell and co-owner Sue Harambe have lived in Rainier Beach for more than 10 years and saw Redwing as a way to provide a gathering place for the local community.

“Before we originally opened,” Campbell said, “we had lived in the neighborhood for eight or 10 years and wanted, wanted a place to walk to, have a cup of coffee and hang out. There never was, and so at some point we just decided to do it,” Campbell said.

Redwing Cafe opened its doors with the motto: “Earth food for Earth people”, serving vegetarian dishes and coffee drinks. And in addition to locals, several celebrities have come to Redwing, including radio and television host and atheist speaker Ron Reagan and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Two years after the pandemic, the corner of 57th Street and Rainier Avenue is changing — reflecting the growth coming to the area. At a recent Rainier Beach town hall dedicated to the development, community members heard that about 11,000 units from about 20 projects should come online in the next few years.

Some of that growth is just around the corner from Redwing. Polaris at Rainier Beach, a 5-story, 306-unit affordable housing development, opened earlier this year. The apartment also has 5,300 square feet of ground floor retail space and a garage with 148 parking spaces.

The Redwing Cafe Facebook page is showing some social media love for the Creamy Cone Café opening.

“You know that block — it was great,” Campbell said. “We opened around the same time as Nate’s (Drae’s Lake Route) and Jude’s and the more things going on on the block the better, the more activity on the block the better for us.”

“It’s going to get denser and more active, which I think is a good thing,” he said. “I used to be against development, but now it seems like we need more housing in the city … so I’m all for building more housing in urban neighborhoods. The more people walking around, the safer and more welcoming the neighborhood is, so I think it’s going to be more vibrant and full of people.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with information about King Donuts’ upcoming move to a new location.

Phil Manzano is a South Seattle writer, editor with more than 30 years of experience in daily journalism and was most recently news editor for Emerald.

📸 Featured Image: Anthony Campbell, co-owner of Redwing Cafe. (Photo: Phil Manzano)

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