Dynamic Seattleites: Buzz Maker, Dani Cone

Trendsetting and trailblazing — This shot-pulling pro gives Seattleites their fix.

Ever since Dani Cone was young, she knew she wanted to open a coffee shop. Her entrepreneurial instinct first blossomed in grade school when she sold flowers with her sister around the neighborhood and business districts of Seattle. Cone discovered her love of coffee when she was 15 and working at a deli, splitting her time between pulling espresso and slicing meat.

Dani Cone of High 5 Pie and Fuel Coffee; Photo by Ernie Spiro.

After studying business and economics at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., and spending time in Colorado, Cone returned to Seattle and worked as a barista at Caffé Vita. Six years later, she decided it was time to start a café of her own and opened her first Fuel Coffee in March 2005 on Capitol Hill. Since then, she’s brought the grand total of locations to three by opening stores in Wallingford and Montlake.

As the perfect compliment to her buzz making coffee, Cone started a wholesale pie business, High 5 Pie, in 2008, and then recently opened a retail location in January of 2011 on Capitol Hill’s 12th Ave. She said her decision to start a pie business came from the “shaky” economy and people everywhere seeking a little comfort and getting back to the basics.

“I turned to what I know of comfort: pie,” Cone said. “Pie is classic, warm, nostalgic, feel-good food and I think it’s just what we needed. I haven’t met many folks who can resist a perfect cup of coffee and a classic slice of apple pie.”

Being a small business owner in a downtrodden economy isn’t easy, especially when you’re selling java in the coffee capital of the world with a huge array of competing shops already established. But even with the long days and sleepless nights, Cone says it’s a rewarding process and there’s always room for good coffee.  While Fuel Coffee is sold exclusively at their three locations, their beans are roasted by Caffé Vita and are available at any of Caffé Vita’s six Seattle locations.

Cone’s taste goes beyond her homemade coffee and pie.  One step inside her clean-cut yet nostalgic mint-green pie shop, you feel like you’re in a vintage ’50s diner. Yet, the lofty ceiling’s and warm lighting give it a contemporary twist.

Fuel’s espresso machines are custom painted with some of the finest automobile paint from VW, BMW, Volvo and were the first La Marzocco espresso machines to ever feature racing stripes — these are equivalent to the Ferrari of espresso machines.

To match the variety of her coffee, Cone offers sweet and savory pies ranging from rhubarb custard, banana cream, Aussie Beef to broccoli/cheddar/mushroom. Never one to rest on her laurels or her best selling flavor, apple pie, Cone recently developed a s’mores pie to top it all off.

Cone has a true passion and love that goes beyond the java and treats.  “One of the best parts of the job is getting to know the neighbors, the schools, the shops, the families, everyone around and seeing what I can do, each day, to make them proud to have us in their neighborhood,” she said.

“As a barista of over 18 years, coffee is truly one of my great loves,” Cone said. “I can’t say enough about it. The thing to me is that when you love what you do, you just can’t help but want to do it more.”

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