Emma Rue’s, a newly opened 1920s Parisian-inspired luxe café in downtown Spokane, is a decades-old dream for married couple Bryan and Alyssa Agee and their friend, Aaron Hein.
After the Agees moved back to Spokane from Oregon, they were talking about all the things they loved and missed about the Portland food and drink scene, offerings that just weren’t available here.
An idea began percolating, and the three of them came up with a concept that would incorporate all of their individual passions: artisanal coffee (Bryan’s specialty), craft cocktails (Aaron’s specialty), and French-inspired desserts (Alyssa’s specialty).
Next came the hard part: finding the perfect location for their coffee, cocktails and dessert café.
Their search took several years until they discovered the corner space in the historic Symons Block Building at 15 S. Howard St.
Right away, they knew it was “the one.” As a history buff, Alyssa fell in love with the beautiful old building, as well as the location itself.
“At heart, I’m an urban city girl,” she shared. “I’ve always loved the energy and vibe you get from the pedestrian life. I wanted to be really close to the core and all the amenities that are such perfect partners for us.”
Even the name of their café takes a page from the Spokane history books. Emma Rue was the daughter of Colonel David P. Jenkins, one of the founders of Spokane. The elegant sounding French name matched perfectly with their vision for the café.
They want to be that place where, once you’re done enjoying your entertainment for the evening, whether it’s a symphony, concert or show, you can come in and enjoy an amazing house-made dessert, pastry, cocktail or espresso in an elevated way.
Alyssa, who reported she will “probably die with a piece of chocolate cake in one hand,” is especially excited to be a hub for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth late in the evening without having to get take-out from a deli counter.
Although 2020 wasn’t ideal for deciding to open a new business, they took the leap of faith and officially launched Emma Rue’s in mid-August this year. For now they’re offering coffee and French-inspired pastries daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The dessert and cocktail piece will be complete before the end of the year (with expanded hours) … and will be well worth the wait!
Already they’ve been blown away by the number of regulars who come in and order the same things over and over again, particularly the cortado and coffee cake, which customers describe as light, airy and full of flavor. And Portland transplants love seeing the name recognition of Coava Coffee Roasters, Emma Rue’s anchor coffee.
Their goal is to introduce Spokane to things they haven’t yet experienced. “We don’t want to just replicate what our neighbors are doing,” Alyssa explained. “We want to be able to offer that other option.”
For the coffee side, they’re featuring only single origin coffee – no blends – from roasters primarily in the Pacific Northwest, outside of Spokane. Their cocktail menu will be European inspired with a heavy focus on absinthe and champagne, plus wines that are more from the French region.
Because there are already fantastic local roasters in town, along with great coffee shops, restaurants, and wine bars that focus on local, it was important for Emma Rue’s to be different.
“Part of what creates an interesting and diverse downtown core is that you get a variety of offerings within a small geographic area,” Alyssa stated. “It increases walkability appeal, both for tourists staying in the hotels and for people who live downtown.”
Even though downtown is not as busy as it used to be due to COVID, they know it’s only a matter of time before the area springs fully back to life.
“Resiliency is the word that comes to mind for anyone who has weathered the downtown all the way through COVID,” Alyssa said. “We have braced ourselves for the long game. Yes, it’s a slow ramp-up, but not as slow as we originally thought, and that is very encouraging.”
For more information on Emma Rue’s, visit their website here.