If you don't have a strong memory of 13 Coins, you're probably under 10
or new to the city. Opened in 1967, it was Seattle's only 24-hour, fine
dining restaurant. Another rarity: in these 51 years, the Coins has had
only three owners. When Jim Ward, the original owner, passed away, his
wife kept the Boren Ave location, opened Sea-Tac in 1976, Anchorage in
1979 (now closed), and a new concept in New Orleans in 1979. She lost
it all in bankruptcy. Jeanne Boyce Jones and her family purchased the
two Seattle 13 Coins and ran them from 1981-2006. A group of
investors/owners purchased the restaurants.
Boren location exterior (now closed)
When Howard McQuaid came to Al Moscatel (Thomasville, Urban Interiors,
Urban Design + Development, Tailored to the Trade) to see if he would
be an investor, he replied 'No! I want to be an owner.' Apparently, he
is a man who needs no sleep (and rarely eats breakfast or lunch). His
interest didn't come out of the air. When he was young, his father ran
the family furniture business on First Avenue, selling during the day
and delivering at night. They would go to the Seattle Furniture Market
(now the Seattle Design Center) to buy; it was next to 13 Coins. They
would go there for meetings with furniture reps. As he grew up, his
sleeping habits didn't improve, and he spent late nights there. "It
played a big part in my life," Al says. "Even now, the sheets they used
to use for wait lists are the sheets I use for my to do lists. I'm an
old-school kind of guy and still use paper. I believe a hand shake is a
hand shake and the truth is the truth. Howard and I put someone in
charge to run the two restaurants because we had no experience. It
didn't work, so we basically flipped a coin to see what each of us
would take on. I got operations, he does some operations, leases and
negotiations. Ann Mei Huie is also an owner. She has worked with us in
the furniture business for 25 years and is an incredible comptroller."
They had the benefit of working with Jeanne Boyce Jones, the second
owner. "Jeannie really took us under her wing. We did not understand
what we bought and what it meant to Seattle. It's an extremely
detailed, employee-driven business. There was great loyalty both ways
and we had to win that loyalty and trust before we could make changes.
A 24-hour business is very difficult. If I were starting a restaurant,
I would never start with 24 hours. But it is the beauty and heart of
this business and we wanted to honor that legacy. When we remodeled the
Boren location, we didn't put coins in the table tops. I thought there
was going to be a riot!"
Two opportunities arose for expansion: Pioneer Square at the site of
the new Embassy Suites, and Bellevue near the Hyatt Regency. Bellevue
was the first new location in 40 years when it opened in 2015. "We
didn't open Bellevue properly. Loyal guests came, gave us feedback, and
a few weeks later, nothing had changed. I truly believe that to be
successful, you have to fail. That's how you learn and improve. We all
make mistakes, we just need to know how to correct them. We're now in a
good place in Bellevue. We're creating private event space for up to
100. And, in Bellevue only, we will take reservations for all size
parties. We want to be true to the brand yet stay current. In Bellevue,
people won't come if they don't know they have a seat. At all our
locations, reservations are taken for parties of six or more."
The Lower Quarters in Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square opened in March 2018. It has two floors, kitchens
upstairs and down, and the ability to seat up to 250 for private
events. Downstairs has an area they use for live music and will look
for other opportunities, like stand-up comedy. They may do hot boxes
with 2-3 items outside on game days. "We find that we need to simplify.
Being 24 hours complicates things, so when you start adding things, it
gets out of control. It's difficult to communicate changes to staff and
get everyone on the same page in a 24-hour cycle."
Sea-Tac's Pacific Room (below)
A lesson learned from Boren was that they needed larger booths.
Restaurants now have booths that will seat up to 6-8. Sea-Tac has been
refurbished and has two new private event rooms that will seat up to
100. "By September 1, the physical part of keeping current should be
done," explains Al. "Then we really focus on menu, customer service,
One of the biggest trust builders with employees was when they
committed to them they would not be out of work for even one day as
Boren closed and Pioneer Square opened. They covered that transition,
but it was 60 days. "We said we would take care of people and we did."
Expo stations have been installed to make life easier for cooks and
servers. "We've always put the plates as they're finished into a long
line along the counter where servers pick them up. We get so busy that
there isn't enough room for all the dishes, plus there are no heat
lamps above them, so food can cool. This system will take care of that
problem. These kinds of things cost money but create trust. You have to
put yourself in others' positions and see what they deal with every
day." In July, Al did a 24-hour shift, working in each position for an
hour-and-a-half to fully understand what happens each day. "I'm willing
to listen and learn. Now I feel I've listened and we have good people
around us, so we need to execute on what we've found." While they plan
to evolve the menu and portion size, they always want to stay true to
the legacy and value 13 Coins has always represented.
For now, Al is saying no to more expansion. "13 Coins will be here for
a long time. We're very proud of the senior leadership team we've put
together, which is enabling us to handle our growth. We need to do the
right things now, and when we have it right, we can look at options.
Our goal is to treat everyone (guests and staff) with respect, and honor
the 13 Coins legacy. If we do the right thing, it will work."
Al Moscatel (taken by Seattle Times staff)
Photos courtesy of 13 Coins