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Olympia's New Moon Cafe goes Black

The Black Moon Collective turns the cafe into a cooperative

The Black Moon Collective will take over The New Moon Café. Courtesy photo

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There's something new happening at the New Moon Cafe. The cafe, an Olympia institution beloved for its homemade blackberry jam, low prices and funky vibe, changes hands next week, becoming a cooperative.

A team will run the place, with every member working at one or more typical restaurant jobs and taking on some of the tasks typically handled by a boss. All of the members are owners, too. And decisions will be made collectively.

"We don't want to be just dishwashers or servers, because we have so much more to offer," says Micheal Snow, one of the 14 members of the Black Moon Collective, which is in the process of purchasing the cafe from former owner Dylan Elkhart. The transfer formally takes place next week; during the transition, cooperative members have been working and training at the cafe.

That means workers will have schedules that include shifts working in the restaurant, time spent on projects such as payroll and policies and weekly collective and committee meetings.

"It can be stressful at times, but it's also just really rewarding," says Kristy Keeley, who's a server and part of the finance and operations committees. "It's work that I want to be doing. It's not like I have to drag my feet. I'm really excited about it. I think we all are."

"It's not so stressful when you are really invested in it and really excited about what the possibilities are."

Keeley, who has worked in food service for eight years, is excited about the opportunities presented by a cooperative. "We all have a say in what we do, how we do it and where the money is going to go," she says. "It is going to go toward another project or raises for us or hopefully a health care plan in the future? We'll be able to make those decisions."

While the possibilities are vast, the New Moon in the short term won't look or taste much different than it does now.

"Really, our first goal is just to learn and maintain the quality and consistency that New Moon is known for, and from there, we want to add some things to it," says Snow, a cook, dishwasher and member of the finance committee.

The restaurant is best known for its breakfasts, including the Blue Moon omelet (bacon, spinach, apples and blue cheese) and blackberry pancakes, and for a relaxed atmosphere that has customers waiting on the sidewalk for one of the relatively small number of tables inside.

It's also known for its civic-mindedness, having offered pay-what-you-can days that offered more people an opportunity to dine out and raised money for local nonprofits. That spirit will continue, Snow says. Aug. 21 will be the collective's first benefit, with 50 percent of sales going to Homes First, which works for affordable housing in Thurston County.

In the short term, the collective wants to be careful financially, Snow says. "We're in an interesting place," he says. "We want to keep the current customer base, so we want to keep things the same in most respects, but we also want to liven it up a little bit and add our own personality to it."

During the transition period, the collective raised a $20,000 down payment, including $8,705 raised through an Indiegogo campaign. While the New Moon will be Olympia's only collectively owned and cooperatively managed restaurant, several of the collective's members, including Snow, worked with the cooperatively managed Flaming Eggplant Cafe on the campus of The Evergreen State College.

Longer term, both he and Keeley envision some refinements.

"We are interested in an organic and local menu," he says. "We want to support local agriculture and production."

"We want to develop better relationships with other cooperatives as well as sourcing from cooperatives," Keeley says. "Also, we want to offer more vegan options without taking away from the options that are already there."

"We don't want to revamp the New Moon to be something that is not the New Moon."

THE NEW MOON CAFÉ, opens Thursday, Aug. 1, grand opening party Aug. 30, 113 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.357.3452

LINK: We reviewed The New Moon Cafe

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