July 21, 2012 in City

Seven weeks after shooting, Seattle cafe back in business

Manuel Valdes Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Leonard Meuse, left, smiles while he serves customers Friday at the newly reopened Cafe Racer in Seattle. The cafe opened Friday morning, seven weeks after the shooting that wounded Meuse and killed four people there.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – With a new floor, freshly painted walls and the busy chatter of customers, Cafe Racer reopened on Friday – seven weeks after a gunman killed four people inside the business in one of Seattle’s worst mass shootings.

The cafe’s opening came the same day 12 people were killed at a Colorado movie theater.

“We can’t stop awful things from happening,” said Ava Shockley, one of the volunteers who worked on the remodeling, after finishing a meal. “But we can support each other.”

Back in the kitchen was Leonard Meuse, who was wounded during the May 30 shooting. That day Ian Stawicki killed Kimberly Layfield, 36; Drew Keriakedes, 49; Donald Largen, 57; Joseph Albanese, 52, at the cafe before killing 52-year-old Gloria Leonidas in a carjacking. Stawicki killed himself shortly after.

More reserved than usual, Meuse ventured from the kitchen to the bar and gingerly interacted with some of the customers, mustering a smile occasionally.

“I’m overwhelmed right now,” he said, while sitting in a corner of the bar.

Among the returning customers were Meuse’s parents and his brother, Dan Meuse.

In the past six weeks, volunteers have been working to remodel the cafe, which attracts a customer base of local musicians. The exterior has been pressure washed and repainted. The floor section where the shooting happened was ripped out and a new one installed, painted a bright blue.

In the back, shelves were installed that hold pictures of the victims and dried flowers from the memorial that appeared after the shooting. A large leather chest holds cards and posters left by people.

“The song has ended but their melody lingers on,” a plaque donated by Layfield’s mother reads above the memorial.

Gentry and Matt Little, who have lived in the neighborhood for a decade, polished off a tuna melt and hummus plate. They described the victims as neighborhood fixtures, regulars of the funky cafe.

“I’m happy to be back,” Gentry Little said. “I feel comfortable here.”

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