Distant Worlds owner Rebecca Servoss

Meet Rebecca Servoss, owner of Distant Worlds Coffeehouse in Roosevelt.

Rebecca Servoss started Distant Worlds Coffeehouse in 2020 as a meeting place for, as she puts it, “geeks of all stripes.” In addition to serving up coffee and house-made treats with a side of sass, Rebecca has created a comfortably nerdy spot for Roosevelt residents to gather for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, book club, or a discussion about the latest episode of Doctor Who

Learn more about Rebecca and her shop in this week’s Small Business Spotlight Q&A!


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


So… you opened your business in March of 2020, right as the pandemic started?

Yeah… it’s been four years of weird, weird times to be in business, but it was amazing. It asked me to flex and stretch in some really interesting ways, and we ended up making some incredible connections with the local community of people who make food and people who were in the service industry and the hospitality industry, as we did all these pop-ups and really reached out to try and be a space for people.

We had 1,100 square feet of dining room that we couldn’t use for its intended purpose as a gathering grounds. And we just had to find other ways to do that for a while. And that was amazing.

And that actually led to a lot of big things for us. So it’s been, it’s been kind of crazy, but… Oh man. So I actually like to think of Distant Worlds as a community center that pays the rent by selling coffee.

Your cafe is full of sci-fi and fantasy pop culture memorabilia and artwork. Were you a “geek” growing up?

Oh yeah, I was a terrible geek. I have Labyrinth and Dark Crystal tattoos on my arm. I have Star Trek on my calf. It’s literally inked into my skin; it’s such a part of who I am. I grew up watching Star Trek Next Generation and Doctor Who with my father. I gravitated to science fiction and fantasy books at a very young age, and the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, among other things.

And then, gosh, freshman year of high school, I got into gothic literature and sort of that horror occult side of things and the ways that that leads into Dungeons and Dragons and all of that crossover. Also in high school, I sort of went through that awkward, weird transitional phase of being not just geeky, but geeky and goth and kind of queer and figuring myself out and having all of those overlapping identities.

The space that felt the most welcoming and warm and comfortable for me was the coffee shop that was up the street. This was in Southern California. I believe it was a Dietrich’s Coffee. This is like the mid 90s, you know, and we won’t pretend that I drink good coffee. But that was the space that sort of the freaks and queerdos at school gravitated towards. That was our space to be comfortable, to be in community with each other, to be sort of safe from the angst and barbs of high school.

So yeah, coffee and geekery and these spaces have been hugely important to me ever since I was little.

The space that felt the most welcoming and warm and comfortable for me was the coffee shop that was up the street.


Do you see Distant Worlds providing that same safe and welcoming space for the younger generation?

We’re, like, three blocks from the high school and we don’t see a ton of students, but I feel like the ones that need us find us. You know, these are the drama club kids, the band club kids, the kids that are coming in here with their colored hair and trans flags on their backpack. These are the kids that are definitely part of that space of needing that safety.

I do think that the need for queer positive space still exists, but it exists differently than it did when I was a kid. At least in this state, thank God, we’ve reached a place where you can be queer at 60 paces and just visibly clock as gender non-conforming or trans or queer and not have that paint a target on you the same way as it did, you know, before we repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, before we had marriage equality, before we made all of these strides. And Washington State, you know, we’ve protected a lot of those strides legally, thankfully.

So I think the need for places like this still exists. I just think that they’ve changed a little bit. I’m glad to be part of that change.

Distant Worlds star wars baking


Beyond the memorabilia, you do a lot of things differently here. What are you most proud of?

We do all of our own baking. We make pastries, breakfast sandwiches, weekend cinnamon rolls, a large percentage of which is vegan, which is pretty rad. We’ve also been bringing in some new fun treats. 

We work with Herkimer as our roaster, Friday Afternoon Tea, which is a local queer Latina owned tea company. Love them to pieces. I’ve known Friday for more than a decade, we have been friends for 14 years at this point and I’ve watched her tea company grow and it’s been incredible. And when I came in here, we were already primed for that partnership.

And what’s lovely about that is because they’re a local company and because I know who they are, we’re able to develop our own chai blend. So the chai that we serve in-house is Friday afternoon, makes our chai blend for us and then we do all the brewing. It is exclusive to us.

We work with Jonboy Caramels, which is another locally owned company. Our caramel sauce is phenomenal because it’s actual caramel. It’s not caramel flavoring in a cornstarch suspension. It’s sugar cooked down and then added too. And we sweetness adjust it to create our espresso drinks.

And why would you want to go with the same people that everyone else is working with when you have somebody like that in your local community? Why would you reach outside of that?

We’re partnered with Sista Sci-Fi for our book Vending Machine, which is maybe the coolest thing I think I’ve ever seen in my life.

Distant Worlds Coffee Beans

Photo Credit: Distant Worlds Facebook


Distant Worlds is now tip-free. Can you tell us why you made that switch?

So we went tip-free October of last year, and that really was an outgrowth of an ongoing conversation between myself, the morning team, the evening team, and the pay disparity that was happening. If you’ve ever worked in food service, you know that you have busy times and less-busy times, and when you have your busy times, you’re making all the tips ever, and when you have your less busy times, you’re doing all of the heavy lifting of the store maintenance, the cleaning, the dishes, and you’re not having the same compensation.

So we talked about it a bunch. Do we want to do a higher base pay for the closing team? Do we want to pool all of the tips that are made during the day, and then everyone gets a fair share of them based on how many hours you worked, or do we want to go to a tip-free model? And this was a really big decision that I felt it was really important conversation to have between myself and the staff.

So after, gosh, a month or so of having this conversation, we decided as a team that moving to a tip-free compensation package actually was gonna work the best for us. So we have a base rate now that’s in the low 20s, and goes up from there, depending on how long you’ve been with the store, and we adjusted our pricing to account for that. So when you come in and you buy a latte, the six bucks that you see on the menu is the, you know, the six bucks plus tax that you’re gonna pay at the register.

It’s allowed us to have pay transparency and pay equity across the team. So if someone who’s on that closing shift is sick, or needs to take a break, or, you know, needs to go on vacation, or, you know, visit their mom, or, I don’t know, go to a concert, you know, have a life, be a human, they have much less difficulty finding somebody to take their shift from them. Whereas before, it was actually really hard, because, you know, why would anyone give up their super lucrative shift to pick up a way less lucrative, super dish-heavy shift? And it was creating tension.

I always want us to be in a space where we feel like we’re all pulling together, you know. This is, if we all lift together, then we’re gonna get it done. If you’re like, well, I don’t want to do that because, you know, I’m not getting paid the same, that’s a valid concern, and that’s a valid statement, and it was really important for us to address that and fix it.

Instead of me saying, “hey, can you tell me how much you think my team should be paid?” I’m telling you how much my team should be paid. Like that’s how that works.


How is it working out for your customers? Did prices have to go up significantly? Any downsides?

It’s actually worked out really well for us. It takes a little training of the customers, and we still have a lot of people who get to be in a transaction and are like, “it didn’t let me tip!” And we’re like, “no, no, it’s okay. It’s okay. We don’t have tips. We have a higher wage. Everything is cool. I appreciate you wanting to make sure that the team is taken care of.”

I love that our customers are so invested in the well-being of our staff that the absence of a tip option makes them feel a little anxious, but then we get to tell them we pay everybody a higher wage. If you work 10 hours here, you’re always getting paid X number of dollars. It’s really, really good. I look forward to seeing more companies make that transition and move in that direction. I think it’s a much more equitable way to do compensation.

I mean, listen, it has absolutely made our taxes go up a little bit. Not just our our business taxes because our prices are higher and so we have more income, but our employment taxes have gone up a little bit as well, and I get that. It sucks, but it’s worth it to me to pay that little bit higher. It’s not a huge amount higher.

It’s worth it for me to pay that little bit higher to know that my team feels stable and secure. You know, I may not be able to give you every hour you ever wanted, but I can make sure that you know exactly what your income is going to be based on the hours that you’re, you’re scheduled, so you can plan your life.

You can plan what you’re going to do with yourself. You can figure out if you need another job or you need to, you know, or you know that you have enough income coming in that you can pursue your art, you can pursue your music, you can pursue acting, whatever it is that you’re doing that gives you life as opposed to just pays your rent. So, yeah, it’s important to me, and it’s a thing that definitely sets us apart.

And yeah, so you walk into a place like this or like Ghost Note who’s also tip-free and the prices are higher, but then if you think about it like, yeah, okay, you paid nine dollars for your 20-ounce oat milk vanilla latte but you would have paid nine dollars for your 20-ounce oat milk vanilla latte with the tip. It’s exactly the same. It’s just instead of me saying, hey, can you tell me how much you think my team should be paid? I’m telling you how much my team should be paid. Like that’s how that works.

Irish hand pie, breakfast sandwich, and the last unicorn latte from distant worlds coffeehouse

You host a lot of fun events throughout the month, is that right?

We have a pretty packed roster on the weekends, especially.

Every First Saturday of the month is geeky open mic night. We host the Seattle silent book club every first Sunday, that requires an RSVP. We have a second Wednesday craft night. The way that they run the event it is aggressively queer and neurodivergent and it’s just delightful to have this group of people who’s working on whatever their particular handicraft is, and being in community in a way that is specific to that. Like I want to be around people, but also I can’t make eye contact because of whatever my particular brand of neuro-spicy is.

On every third Saturday, we have the Critical Role fandom meetup, and then the fourth Saturday is our Star Trek fan meetup. We absolutely do have the opportunity for folks to hold their own events here, to host things, reserve tables, through our website. We’d love to fill out our roster even more.

We hope you enjoyed this special interview with Rebecca! Remember to upload your receipts all month long from woman-owned businesses like Distant Worlds Coffeehouse for a chance to win prizes from Seattle sports teams. 

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