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A labor of love for Celeste Shaw Coulston’s Café Coco

Celeste Shaw-Coulston, owner of Chaps, stands in her restaurant and bakery, at 24 W. Main Ave., called Café Coco.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Adriana Janovich For The Spokesman-Review

Love is in the little things.

The edible blooms that accompany each piece of toast – flowers from Urban Eden Farm during the local growing season, fresh orchids shipped in the rest of the year. The self-serve sugar cubes, raw and white, paired with a set of tongs. No rip-top packets here.

It’s in the locally roasted coffee. The bread pudding made with, not bread, but perfectly laminated croissants. (The rich dessert – maybe it’s breakfast? – comes in three flavors: blueberry, banana cream and cinnamon.)

And it’s emblazoned right there on the front of sweatshirts that stock the shelves in the carefully curated cabinet that lines part of one of the exposed brick walls and doubles as a mini gift shop. Love.

That’s how Celeste Shaw-Coulston sees her newest endeavor, a Main Avenue coffee shop named in honor of her youngest granddaughter who – along with her mother – nearly died during her birth. Food, Shaw-Coulston says, is love. And Café Coco is an ode to a little girl who almost didn’t get the chance to take her seat at the table.

“It’s my love letter to Coco,” Shaw-Coulston said. “I did it for her.”

The café’s Instagram handle starts like a letter: @dearcoco… The profile photo: a smiling tow-headed toddler standing in front of the café sign that proclaims her name. Coco herself.

Colette Renee “Coco” Shaw, now 3, can often be found at the café, which Shaw-Coulston hopes helps foster a sense of community and calm. She wants the space to be both a celebration and a refuge, Spokane’s front parlor and sanctuary.

Café Coco is “intimate,” Shaw-Coulston said. “I see people engage there. I see them laughing. I see them crying. I see them having conversations.

“It’s become this very embracing spot for people to slow down and take their time and connect. I love that it’s downtown and people can stumble upon it and wander in, and it doesn’t feel rushed. It lends itself to being engaged with another human being.”

The café opened five months ago, in late July, in the first-floor storefront previously occupied by Boots Bakery and Lounge. The longtime vegan bakery relocated across the street in Saranac Commons last summer after more than 10 years in the Longbotham Building. Building owner Dan Spalding served Boots owner Alison Collins an eviction notice in fall 2022, stipulating Boots had to move out by the end of last year unless it limited its production.

“I called Alison to see if it was OK with her (to open Café Coco in the same spot). I really respect her and that she was there for as long as she was.

“Women,” Shaw-Coulston said, “have to support each other.”

She’s enamored with the location. “I just love that little corner of downtown,” Shaw-Coulston said. “I’m surrounded by great neighbors. I love that Alison is across the street. It’s a privilege to be surrounded by people I admire doing something I love for someone I love.”

Coco is the youngest of Shaw-Coulston’s seven grandchildren. She has three sons, all grown. Two have children of their own. All are in Spokane. Daughter-in-law Megan and son Jeff Shaw have five.

Two-thirds of the way through their pregnancy with Coco, Megan developed complications. Doctors ordered bed rest. Coco came early, with a hole in her heart. Megan nearly bled out. Both recovered.

“It was such a traumatic situation,” said Shaw-Coulston, who also owns Chaps Diner and Bakery, Vinegar Goods and Lucky Vintage and Pretty Things.

Her little Kendall Yards coffee shop, Paper and Cup, closed in 2020. Since then, she had been looking for a new space in the Vinegar Flats Neighborhood. Locations were limited. When the Longbotham storefront became available, it seemed like the perfect spot to build a new business.

Coco, Shaw-Coulston said, “gave us a second chance.”

She decorated the space in her signature style: an eclectic mix of new and vintage pieces from all over the world. Antique benches from Spain. Chandeliers from Belgium. A marquis-style menu sign from Paris. Plush green velvet couches and chairs that lend “this little touch of sophistication,” she noted. “You have to have a way to insert meaning into space.”

The overall effect “feels very European, but also a little Spokane,” said Shaw-Coulston, who also exposed more of the location’s red brick walls. “I love to revitalize things. I love to find pieces that have a history to them.”

Vintage silver. Antique art work. In the case of Chaps, a circa-1912 farmhouse, which Shaw-Coulston moved across the highway to house her diner.

“I think more than a coffee shop I just wanted a space,” Shaw-Coulston said. “I wanted a space that would feel like it was inviting people into a little world, a space to be very cozy with a lot of comfort.”

Coffee comes from Four Seasons. Pastries, such as croissants and cinnamon rolls, come from Chaps. Ben Hedges is the chef. Eden McMaster is the pastry chef.

Top-sellers include the pistachio croissant, banana cream bread pudding and grilled peach-and-prosciutto toast. Other menu items: soup, quiche, bread and jam, biscuits and jam, avocado toast and a popular Cuban sandwich. “It’s been selling out almost every day,” Shaw-Coulston said.

She knows what the naming of it might seem like: “What would a little child care about a café?”

But, she said, “I care. I care that we continue to build community and that she’s a little girl in the world. I want to champion that with her and her sisters.”