Wanting change and a challenge, Sheldon Smith left an island and a warehouse for a street corner and a downtown coffee shop.
“Time to try something new,” Smith said during a morning break from customers at Café on Fourth, formerly Kona Kai, at Fourth Avenue South and West Gowe Street, across from Kent City Hall. “I’ve always been in food service, and I’m still learning. … This is all on our own, and we’re trying to turn this around.”
Smith, who became the new owner of the café in February, understands he has competition. Starbucks sits just a block away from his spacious café and popular, established bakeries and restaurants are nearby. Yet Smith is determined to make a go of it, eager to embrace customers, the community and their ideas.
“I’m open to anything, if people want to come in and try something,” Smith said of his café, a hub for activity.
Smith welcomes change. He grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and began working for Costco, pushing carts, driving forklifts and stocking shelves. He gradually moved his way up to junior manager, took a transfer to a Costco in Issaquah, then recently retired after 30 years with the company.
He wanted to spend more time with family and oversee a corner café. He found it here.
Coming to the Northwest has been good for Smith, wife Corene and daughter Kekailani. They have found a home in Auburn and have surrounded their autistic 5-year-old girl with the specialized care she needs.
Café on Fourth serves up a variety of espresso drinks and coffee – from hand-roasted Kona blends to Central and South American tastes. Other coffee blends from around the world – including Smith’s family ties to Hawaii – add a twist to the café menu. The deli prepares sandwiches and pizza.
Beyond its menu, Café on Fourth offers a stage for entertainment and learning. Each month brings a mix of concerts, demonstrations, club chatter, open mic and other talk, and room for featured artists to flaunt their works. Corene’s vivid artistry can be found on window, sign and menu displays.
The shop can be reserved for parties, conferences and casual gatherings.
The café is open daily, except for Sunday. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
For ongoing events and other information, visit cafeonfourth.com.