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Longtime Island coffee stand bids adieu to north-end crowd
Last week, Wanda Moore set up a lawn chair next to the north-end ferry terminal where her latte stand had stood only days before, offering up hugs and farewells instead of double talls and single shorts.
For more than 30 years, the stand has been a fixture at the north-end ferry dock, making it, some say, the longest continuously operating stand in the Seattle region, the latte Mecca of the world. But the Friday before, her landlord, she said, had shut off her water; on Saturday, she had her stand forklifted onto a truck and carted off.
Now, a truck is parked on the gravel pull-out where Wild Woman Espresso once stood, and on Monday, as commuters shuffled past in a steady rain, some mourned its loss.
“I’m sad to see it gone,” said Ryan Lenear, carrying a cup of java that he’d purchased elsewhere. “She made great coffee. And she was fun to talk to.”
Others were befuddled by the stand’s sudden departure, which took place with little fanfare — operating one day, gone the next.
“What happened?” asked Karen Hust as she walked past in the pouring rain.
What happened is subject to some dispute, since both sides in the argument are hesitant to reveal all the details — and those they do offer up are contradictory.
Brad Cooper, who owns the property where Wild Woman Espresso stood, said the two had a disagreement over rent.
“We were unable to come to terms, and I was unwilling to let her stay there rent- free forever,” he said.
Moore described a much more complex situation, saying that he owes her money from a previous effort on his part to purchase the latte stand, which was why she wasn’t paying rent. She’d successfully staved off one eviction effort, she said, but was unwilling to bring in a lawyer to try again to retain her little piece of ground next to the ferry terminal.
As a result, she said, he turned off the water early Friday, Oct. 16, forcing her to quickly pack up her business and close the stand.
“It’s just horrible,” she said. “This is an institution.”
But Moore, 61, said she’s taking the sudden closure of a business she’s run since 1999 as an opportunity to write a new chapter in her life. In a few weeks, she plans to pack her car, put her two horses — a Morgan mustang named Cruiser and an Arab/pinto named Kimama — into a trailer and head to California, where her ailing mother lives.
“I’ll ride my horses in the Sierras,” she said, smiling.
The latte stand — now on cinder blocks at V.I. Horse Supply — is a modest, fir-clad structure, constructed by an Island boat builder in 1977. Moore bought the stand from Sandy Sheldon, who owned it for years; its lineage before that is unclear.
The latte stand has been one of Vashon’s gathering spots for years, and Moore — talkative and cheerful — has made connections with hundreds of Islanders in the course of her decade of brewing lattes. She’s watched women become mothers, watched children grow up, watched people move to the Island and then move off.
She felt sad and even tearful last Monday, she said, when she set up her lawn chair and bid farewell to a steady stream of customers.
“On the other hand, I got enough hugs to last me a couple of months,” she said.
Margaret Heffelfinger, whose son Hart used to order what he called “Polar Bears,” a special concoction made with white chocolate, said the stand’s closure is more than another business loss on the Island.
“It’s a personal loss, because Wanda made a connection with everybody who stopped there,” she said.
“A cup of coffee is a social event,” Heffelfinger added. “And that coffee stand was a little social mecca.”