The idea behind First Avenue Coffee was brewed out of necessity.

Deborah Di Bernardo had owned Roast House Coffee, a specialty wholesale coffee roastery, since 2010. They’d received several Golden Bean Awards from the world’s largest coffee roaster competition, yet try as she might, no one seemed aware that one of the finest coffee roasters in all of North America was right here in Spokane.

To get the word out, Deborah decided to open a retail coffee house. It was the perfect solution. She wouldn’t be competing with her wholesale customers – primarily grocery stores and restaurants – and she’d be able to share her award-winning coffee with the masses in Spokane.

In April 2019, she officially opened the doors to First Avenue Coffee, located at 1011 West 1st Avenue. From the start, Deborah knew her coffee house had to be different than what anyone else was doing.

With 3,000 square feet of space, First Avenue Coffee stands out as one of the largest coffee houses in the U.S., boasting a 40-foot-long coffee bar with 10 different organic coffees, from Africa to South America, all sourced and roasted by Roast House Coffee.

In her mission to serve “damn good coffee” that’s for the greater good, every coffee is sustainable, ethically traded, 100% organic, bird friendly, shade grown and Rainforest Alliance certified.

“We have more coffee than anybody in the entire area on that bar, and that could not have happened anywhere other than downtown Spokane,” said Deborah.

With The Historic Davenport Hotel close by and The Fox right across the street, it’s the perfect location for tourists to drop in for a coffee and a delicious house-baked goodie. Deborah’s hope is that more locals discover this hidden treasure as business gets back to 100% seating capacity.

Amid all the shutdowns and takeout-only rules of the past year, it’s been tough for Deborah to stay afloat. Not even a year old in March 2020, they were just starting to gain traction with booking their space out for large special evening events like fundraisers, birthday parties and anniversaries when the pandemic hit.

Still, Deborah has persevered and can see the big picture despite the challenges. That’s always been a secret to her success and a trait shared by many women in business: big-picture thinking that’s centered around friends, family and community.

However, Deborah believes that in order for more women to be successful as business owners, ironically, they need more support from other women.

“At this point in my life, I’ve experienced it over and over where women will dismiss women-owned businesses more than men,” she shared. “Men will take more of a chance, but women are probably our biggest critics.”

Bringing this conversation to the table is important to create lasting change. Deborah is encouraged by the increasing local support she’s received from women in Spokane. And as women pay it forward to other women, amazing things can happen.

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