This Roosevelt neighborhood coffee shop is a haven for geeks and more
In Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, tucked in a corner between other small businesses is a coffee shop that feels otherworldly. The sci-fi theme is everywhere, from the furniture to the artwork. There's a mural on the wall of a spaceship — "Serenity" from the TV show Firefly.
Welcome to Distant Worlds Coffeehouse, a haven for geeks and nerds.
Terri Rollins considers herself an introvert. But every last Saturday of the month she gets up early to hang out with other Star Trek fans. You can hear them when they meet at Distant Worlds.
“We can be here and we get kind of loud sometimes,” Rollins said. “And they never told us to shut up!”
Rollins and her fellow fans are sitting around a large table. For the next couple of hours they’ll show their latest Star Trek paraphernalia, play trivia, or just talk Trek.
“The new Discovery third season just came out on DVD,” she explained. “We’re talking about that.”
Over coffee, the group is discussing the merits of remastering earlier series. E.V. VanderWeil says there are generally two groups of thought.
“Some of us are purists,” she said. “And we wanted to stay as it was in the ‘60s. And some of us really, really like the HD saturated colors and really sharp lines. I’m loving that!”
The Star Trek fans have been meeting here for the past six years. They come from all over the state.
“It’s not just Star Trek, but it’s sci-fi," Rollins said. "And it’s nerd culture. And so we feel at home here.”
The idea for Distant Worlds was to be a community space. You don’t need to be a certain kind of geek to belong here.
“Honestly, we’re a space for geeks of all stripes,” said Rebecca SerVoss, owner of Distant Worlds Coffeehouse.
When she acquired the business two years ago, she envisioned a space that includes marginalized people — women, queer, trans, BIPOC.
“These are the folks that we tend to prioritize in how we do business,” SerVoss said. “The vendors that we’re working with, the artists that are on the walls… it’s all about creating a space that looks toward these groups. Because honestly, rising tide lifts all boats.”
Like many businesses, Distant Worlds shut down last spring. During the down time, SerVoss couldn’t sit still.
Before Distant Worlds, SerVoss sold homemade shrubs at farmers markets. She saw how the lockdown was hurting vendors. She knew when she reopened she wanted to offer her space for them to hold popups. It also gave customers another reason to stop by the shop.
“It was such a lightbulb moment … and what everybody felt like they needed at the time, which was these little seeds, these moments of joy and connection,” SerVoss said.
Now that businesses have reopened, the popup rotation at Distant World continues. Near the main counter, there’s a table set up for this week’s vendor: Earthbound Family Kitchen, featuring vegan desserts.
Irene Gurango and her husband have been cooking professionally for more than a decade and are slowly easing back into the food business. This is their first popup.
“I’ve been busy homeschooling our four kids,” Gurango said. “So this is the first time that I’m back out in the wild again!”
Today, customers are picking up orders of chocolate pot de crème with lavender berry topping, matcha key lime pie, and other vegan treats. Gurango says she’s excited to launch here.
“That’s what we love about Distant Worlds is that they really do help out a lot of small businesses. And it’s a little community here.”
Community is at the heart of Distant Worlds. Even its name was the result of a community effort — SerVoss held a contest. Its meaning references the beginning of many fantasy or science fiction stories that take us to faraway places. But SerVoss also sees another meaning.
“This concept of a distant world, being this beginning point for an adventure, that you’re going to a change that you’re going to go through, a thing that you’re going to experience,” she explained. “That speaks to me on a really deep level.”
Which is not too far off from our current journey, collectively.