Community is everything to Bellden Café owner Claire Sumadiwirya. Her homey coffee shop in Bellevue off Main Street is just the method to facilitate it.
“If you want to build a community, you have to know who they are. We want to hear their stories,” said Sumadiwirya, whose own story started in Shanghai, China.
An only child, Sumadiwirya says she was raised to be very independent. When she was 12, her parents decided to move the family to the United States, and her father let Sumadiwirya choose the city. They visited something like 20 cities across the country, but Bellevue’s clean streets and beautiful setting won her heart.
Even from a young age, Sumadiwirya poured her drive and intelligence into helping other people and considered becoming a human-rights lawyer. Instead, she earned an MBA from Seattle University, where she also met her husband, Eddy, who was a law student at the time. From their very first date, the couple discussed a shared dream to one day open a coffee shop.
A few years later, during an overseas assignment in China, their young son was hospitalized for several weeks. Unlike hospitals in the United States, most Chinese hospitals don’t have onsite services like coffee shops or restaurants, Sumadiwirya said. Yearning for some creature comforts during the long weeks of waiting by her son’s bedside, she was moved by the kind hearts of nurses, and even the janitor, who brought her warm homemade soup and hot coffee from the local convenience store. These loving gifts spawned Sumadiwirya’s deep drive to facilitate community.
First, she helped open two hospital coffee shops in China. “I even ate bugs to make it happen!” she says, relaying the story of how she convinced local authorities of her commitment by eating the cicadas they offered her during the meeting.
When she and her husband opened Bellden Café in spring 2017, they wanted to incorporate a philanthropic element into the business that would benefit the local community. Every evening, Bellden donates leftover pastries to organizations serving local people in need. Each quarter, they dedicate proceeds from a special drink or food item to a different charity that Sumadiwirya not only thoroughly researches via websites like charitynavigator.com, but she also personally volunteers at potential charity partners before featuring them at Bellden.
This winter, Bellden is supporting the Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation with the Winter Love Latte, with cinnamon, allspice, and clove. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will be donated to Overlake Hospital Foundation, and they also will be promoting the nonprofit through awareness days with pledge cards and a social media campaign.
Because Bellden is situated between residential and commercial sections of such an ethnically diverse city, the customer demographic represents a range of ages, backgrounds, and professions. “We cherish our customers,” Sumadiwirya said. The feeling is mutual, if Yelp is any indicator.