The Garage: A Cafe Dedicated to Teens

Savannah Wood, Copy Editor

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Three years in production and almost a decade in thought, “The Garage” teen cafe opened on Sept. 22, in downtown Issaquah. Located directly across the street from the Issaquah Community Center, The Garage is open to all high school students in the Issaquah School District. All one has to do to access the cafe is show a valid ASB card. This is a safe place for students to come after school to work on homework, study with a group or simply socialize with friends. Creators wanted the cafe to be a place where students can receive any additional assistance they are in need of. Employee Caitlin Buhr says, “I really like working with high schoolers. I feel like it’s a demographic that is undervalued sometimes. They have a voice and need to use it, and I want to help.” Buhr is currently helping a student with the planning phases of a documentary and hopes to assist more students with whatever they need. The cafe is equipped with several couches, tables and chairs, as well as puzzles, board games and an Xbox. One of the most popular features of The Garage is the espresso machine, where every drink ordered is free of charge. You heard that right: free.

Freshman Masie Jones described her experience as she entered the cafe, saying, “People there were very nice, offered us something to drink and showed us around.” Director of The Garage, KayLee Jaech, who graduated from Issaquah High School herself, always wanted a place where her daughters could go after school that was dedicated to teens. When creators, including Jaech, proposed the idea of the teen cafe, they surveyed high schoolers in the district to ask where the location should be. An overwhelming number of students wanted a place that was in between all three high schools. Thus downtown Issaquah was decided upon. The city of Issaquah originally proposed a house several blocks away from the current location of the cafe. However, at an open house where the community could ask questions regarding the teen cafe, residents argued that they did not want teenagers walking through their neighborhoods. The city thus went back to the drawing board and came up with a building next to the community center that housed storage and several offices for Issaquah Parks and Recreation. With the help of the fiscal sponsor Friends of Youth, the mayor of Issaquah, city council members, and committees comprising of adults and teens, the bare building would develop into The Garage. Barbara de Michele, the Business Manager of the café, was extremely important in “bring[ing] the right people to the table,” explains Jeach. “I think without her it would have never happened.” Senior Julia Imler, who is on the Teens Cafe Steering Committee, recalls that “at the point where I joined, we didn’t even have a building yet. It was really cool to see it go from that to where we are now. It was initially just a storage space with no paint and dust everywhere. We got to help choose the furniture and general design which was really cool.” Jaech commented that even though the cafe has an adult committee and supporters, she always hopes that the teens have the “loudest voice” when making decisions for the cafe.

Since all of the amenities of The Garage are complementary to students, the cafe needs constant financial donors. Many companies and individual donors have responded with significant donations that will allow the teen cafe to provide complementary services and food. Ryan Heidy, who used to be the co-owner of Issaquah Coffee Company, “really has been an incredible support in lots of ways,” explains Jaech. He was able to get the cafe in touch with the contractor who did the work on the renovation, as well as connecting them to an espresso manufacture and Middle Fork Roasters who donates their coffee to The Garage.

The teen cafe also offers a conference room that can be reserved on their website for study groups or club meetings. Starting soon, there will also be a counselor with whom students can either schedule an appointment or if they are free, simply drop-in to receive counseling. As school counselors are often busy, Jaech wanted to give high school students another outlet to receive help. And it is completely free. The cafe is always evolving; Imler explains how they “want to paint a wall with special paint that you can write on. We also just want to get more student art up and photo walls [and] a neon sign outside.” There are also suggestion boxes around the cafe where students can leave their input; the cafe wants constant insight from teens and what they want or need. The Garage is a place solely for teens; Senior McKenna Malone agrees: “This place is appealing because of the complimentary coffee, quiet workspaces, and opportunities to meet new people in a safe environment that isn’t school.”

The Garage is open from 3 p.m to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.