Spokane native Kelly Stronk spent the majority of her teen and young adult years in coffee shops. They were always the place to be, whether studying or meeting up with family and friends.
She dreamed of opening her own coffee shop someday, but accepted it as just that – a dream.
“I never knew that being a business owner was an option for me,” Kelly shared. “I grew up thinking that I was an employee, that I would work for people, that it was my role in society.”
Even though she had a 9 to 5 job with good benefits, the nagging thought of “I can’t see myself doing this forever” greeted Kelly each morning. That’s when she and her partner, Ben Butler, started tossing around the idea of owning their own business.
Kelly’s mind went straight to the atmosphere she had always loved – a coffee shop – and she knew the perfect space for it, too … at 903 West Riverside in downtown Spokane. The problem was, there was already a business in that location.
As fate would have it, just two weeks later, the couple found out the location was up for lease, so they decided, “OK, let’s do this.”
“We were actually in quarantine when we created the business, so I was able to pour myself into it for two weeks straight and really hit the ground running,” Kelly said.
Six months later, they opened the doors to LoKey Cafe, a name partly inspired by Kelly and Ben’s personalities: chill and low key.
“We wanted to create a place where everyone would fit in,” Kelly said. “It’s low key, but also fun and funky and unique. There’s no other place like it.”
Their name is also a fun play on words to low carb, keto-friendly eating. Kelly is quick to point out, however, that everyone is welcome whether they eat low carb or not.
“People are really reacting to the quality of our food,” Kelly shared. “You can come in and have a healthy lunch that’s not going to bog you down or make you tired later.”
Everything is fresh, healthy and made in-house with a full transparency of the calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) listed on the receipt, a decision influenced by Kelly’s own health journey.
During COVID when all the restaurants were shut down, Kelly was able to really focus on her health and nutrition at home. She lost 30 pounds, felt incredible and had tons of energy.
But as restaurants began opening up, Kelly started gaining weight again, even though she thought she was making healthy choices.
She said there was nowhere in Spokane that offered a full macro breakdown of their foods, so LoKey was built on the idea to be a place where people could get a full nutrition breakdown.
Top sellers include their frittata with ham, onion and gruyere, and their crunchy Thai salad. “I cannot keep it in stock,” shared Kelly. “By the end of the day, it’s gone.”
Kelly’s personal favorite is the lemon blueberry kale salad with Cosmic Crisp apples and blue cheese. “It’s so good and refreshing and a nice combo of salty, sweet and crunchy.”
They also offer a veggie bowl and hummus, chai pudding for those who want a healthy treat, and a fruit bowl that goes against the norm with strawberries, blueberries, clementine oranges, kiwi and dragon fruit.
An avid supporter of local businesses in Spokane, LoKey Cafe gets their coffee from Indaba Coffee Roasters; their tea from Revival Tea Company; and their chai from Mandala Chai.
The crazy lifestyle of a business owner has been an adjustment for Kelly. Rather than 9 to 5, she’s working 70 hours a week, starting at 3 a.m. when she begins preparing and weighing food for the day. Despite the long hours, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love being able to interact with our guests, to get to know their names and hear their stories. It’s amazing.”
She’s also thrilled to be part of the growth and community of downtown. Having lived in Spokane all her life, she believes that nothing compares to the camaraderie and “we’re all in this together” mentality of downtown business owners.
For others who are considering making a major change like she did, Kelly offers this advice: “Don’t wait for the right moment because it will never be the right moment. If you believe in something and it makes sense, just go for it.”
LoKey Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.