Lindsey and Noah Dahlstrom left Seattle in June of 2014 and by August of the same year, Argonaut Espresso Bar & Sidewalk Café was born at the mouth of Front Street in Leavenworth. Enamored by mountains, the Dahlstroms named their “small but mighty” Espresso Bar after Argonaut Peak in the Stuart Mountain Range, more commonly known by hiking aficionados as The Enchantments.
The pair’s love for providing quality food and drink shines through with their dedicated and trained staff of employees, unique menu options, and constantly happy demeanor. The Dahlstroms hope their customer base is picky because they are too.
The initial dream for Argonaut was to be a coffee-centric business with delectable drinks of all kinds, but the duo soon learned they needed to adjust and adapt to the needs of their customers if they wanted to maximize the small café’s potential.
“When we first opened we didn’t do any food,” Lindsey Dahlstrom said. “We had some baked goods and we realized quickly that we needed more breakfast items, so we started doing our biscuit breakfast sandwich and added on from there.”
The menu now includes four breakfast options and three lunch options, which includes the popular Hipster Toast, a unique concoction featuring Anjou bakery country loaf, avocado, chili oil, chili flake, sea salt, and lemon.
Admittedly, Noah and Lindsey are perfectionists in the way they make their drinks and assortment of breakfast and lunch foods, and won’t stop from trying new things in hopes of finding the next big hit on their ever-expanding menu.
“It’s kind of funny how much time we spend in development,” Noah Dalstrom said with a chuckle. “We’re making a new lunch sandwich now, and we’ve tried it like eight times in like various stages.”
“It’s not perfect yet,” Lindsey Dahlstrom added.
“We’re trying to make a Reuben, and it is similar to one, but we want to put our own spin on it,” Noah Dahlstrom continued. “Why would we just want to accomplish the goal of making another Reuben? It needs to be interesting, unique, something someone will remember. That’s the fun part about it. We’re really hard on ourselves, critical of ourselves.”
“If someone’s not like, ‘That’s the best sandwich I’ve ever had, it’s a fail,’” Lindsey Dahlstrom said.
In order to stand out, the Dahlstroms said they need to offer more than simply just good coffee and food, and pride themselves on the kind of service they provide to every customer.
“What we’re doing is always trying to convey that there is someone behind the process and we always care about what our customers get,” Noah Dahlstrom said. “We’re not just back here pushing a button and it just happens and comes out with a mechanical arm. It’s people doing their best to make you a good product.”
For the first year of Argonaut’s existence and on top of the time and effort needed to run the café’s finances, execute business strategies, and do maintenance on Argonaut’s building, the Dahlstroms were Argonaut’s only employees on a day-to-day basis. Once the sidewalk cafe grew financially and could bring on extra help, finding the right type of employees was key.
“First it was just us, and then we brought on one person to help in the summer, and now we’re up to six other employees, one of which is full-time,” Noah Dahlstrom said. “We’ve been very encouraged and tooting our horn a bit. Part of our goal was to provide a really good product, but another one was to provide jobs that people enjoy. It’s been really fun because we have three employees who have been here for two years. Everyone is over 25 and so we’ve attracted these awesome, mature, great people and we love that they work for us.”
Paul Sharpe, the owner of Eagle Creek Winery which shares a building with Argonaut, said he sees the professionalism in Argonaut’s staff.
“What sets them apart is their business IQ and that their food is high quality and made to order. They are incredibly in-depth with the training of their employees. If someone orders coffee, it is going to be made exactly like it has been made by the people who have been making it for over a year. In coffee for returning customers, that’s important. They’re exact in their creation and they’re exact in their training and they put in hours themselves to make sure it’s right. To me, that’s smart.”
Even the most talented and dedicated business owners and teams have problems, and it’s often the way those owners handle adversity that dictates whether or not the business can flourish.
For the Dahlstroms at Argonaut Café’s inception, unexpected costs and the shift from coffee only to coffee and food were major hurdles. Now, the peak of summer business is offset by the valleys brought on by the Leavenworth winter weather.
“I think we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far,” Noah Dahlstrom said. “When we did our business plan projections for this business, we vastly underestimated how much revenue it could bring in and we vastly underestimated the number of expenses. I think the weather is a little tough. There’s nowhere inside for us here. Our morning business does slow down because when it’s cold or really rainy, the last thing you want to do is stand outside.”
The couple tries to offset their weather obstacle by accommodating to-go orders, which have increased over the past year. October through January are the toughest months for Argonaut.
Through the ups and downs, Argonaut Café continues to stick to the principles of what has made them popular since Day 1; quality service and excellent coffee and food. Their “small but mighty” espresso bar and sidewalk café has caught the attention of locals and tourists alike, and next-door-neighbor Sharpe has had a front-row view.
“I first met them when they took over the space and we hit it off very quickly,” Sharpe said. “Their concept seemed to be spot on and I appreciated it that the working couple had a good relationship. They stayed true to their goal throughout the years. They wanted to be coffee, but they adapted with their food. They managed to keep it fresh and to keep it new. A lot of businesses seem to be a day late and a dollar short, not Argonaut. They are always on it, get done what they say is going to get done and are very professional. Another thing, they know everybody’s name. For whatever reason, they bring their A game every time. I’ll be coming into work grumbling in my head about what I got to do and sometimes I just stop by to say hi. They’re friends, and they’re always smiling. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for those two. I think they can do whatever they want to do. I bet if they went into any venue they would continue to be successful in whatever they do. I feel good about them. They’re more than just coffee.”