Ryan Faniel, co-owner of Lockspot Cafe and Fish Ladder Lounge in Ballard, Seattle

Meet Ryan Faniel, co-owner of Lockspot Cafe and Fish Ladder Lounge in Ballard.

You might already be familiar with his counterpart, Alison Soike, whom we’ve featured as an amazing small business owner in Ballard. She started Alison’s Coastal Cafe (formerly on Leary Ave) and took over Lockspot Cafe in 2021 and Fish Ladder Lounge in 2023. What you might not know is that Ryan is her business counterpart and one of less-than-a-handful of Black business owners in Ballard. 

Learn more about Ryan, Lockspot Cafe, and a bit about Fish Ladder Lounge in this week’s Small Business Spotlight Q&A!


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Can you tell us a bit about you, where you grew up, and your journey into business ownership?

That’s a long story. I grew up in Tacoma, mainly. I’m a military brat, so I’ve been to a lot of places.

My grandfather, he was at one point one of four certified chefs in the state. So, my whole family, we grew up catering. He owned restaurants down in Tacoma, mainly in the 90s. I literally grew up in his restaurant, so I was there every day with my mom. Then I went to culinary school in Portland. I went for restaurant management, though. I didn’t go for cooking, because I wanted to know the business more than the food.


How did your business journey with Alison begin?

Alison and I, when we met, we started doing things together. And we opened a festival food company called Show Me Your Cones, selling Fried chicken in a waffle cone. We also owned a hot dog cart, and used to sell hot dogs out front of Fish Ladder Lounge when it used to be Shelter Lounge. And then we bought that. So, my journey became our journey once we met, and vice versa.

Show Me Your Cones fried chicken in a waffle cone

Fried chicken in a waffle cone from Show Me Your Cones food cart in 2019


When did you two take over Lockspot and how is that been going? Did you keep everything basically the same? Did you change some things? 

We took it over September 2021. I mean, it’s an institution, almost 100 years old, so we couldn’t change almost anything because people would have skinned us alive (laughs). The only thing we really did was make the food better, that’s all it needed. Otherwise, like I said, it was an institution. There’s not really a need to change anything. And I can’t imagine it changed, honestly.  It wouldn’t make sense anymore. It just changes the whole story. So no, it’s not going to happen on my watch. I’ll put it like that.

I mean, it looks like you changed the mermaid a little bit?

Well, okay. So no, we didn’t change the mermaid. We just added a merman. With a nice derriere, that’s all.

When we got the drawing for it, I’m like, “Yeah, ooh, look at that!” So I’m proud of it. Her dad (Alison’s) actually did that drawing, I want to say about six months before he passed. She has a drawing, too.

Reminder: Upload your receipt when you stop by The Lockspot Cafe during Black History Month.
The Lockspot Cafe gift certificates are also available via our Gift Certificate Marketplace

Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Because people are working hard to provide a service. And when you spend intentionally, it’s more than just money. You’re supporting them, you want them to succeed, you want what they provide to the community to flourish and to spread.

I love what you guys do at Intentionalist because it matters, you know, like the message, the message is all the way through. Spend like it matters, just be intentional, because what you’re doing matters, and it’s going to affect the world. It can affect change. It can. We are at a point in history where, where you put your money matters a lot. 


What’s your favorite item off your menu, your all-time go-to? 

Oh, it’s probably the wings. Yeah, probably the wings, but either the wings or the fried fish tacos, they’re solid.


What would your advice be to other small business owners or people thinking of starting a business? What are some valuable things you’ve learned? 

That’s a trick question there. That’s loaded. But I would say, be authentic. Just be authentic. You’re going to encounter a lot of things that make you think you should change what you’re doing and that you’re not doing things right.

Like, you should be doing something different, but just be true to your message, and be true to what you want to put out. We’re at a point in history where people will know, people will catch the vibe of what you’re trying to do.

And it’s not going to always work, as business is business, but at the same time, people will notice, right? People will definitely notice, and even if your business doesn’t work out, people will miss you and what you’re trying to do. So just stay true.

And how’s Fish Ladder Lounge doing? 

It’s growing. Yeah, it’s growing. It just needs people to know about it, honestly. Simple as that. Because anybody that comes in, they love it. It’s just the transition from Shelter and us starting a brand new business, people just don’t know.

But anybody that comes in the doors loves that place. It is such a cool space.

Fish Ladder Lounge Fireplace Ryan

Ryan enjoying the fireplace at Fish Ladder Lounge


Anything you’d like to promote?

Upload your receipts and you can win prizes! Scan and upload your receipts from my businesses in February to give yourself a chance to win prizes. But also, more importantly (laughs), help me win a grand prize, me and my team, to win a grand prize. So do that for us.


Bonus: Want to enjoy Lockspot Cafe and Fish Ladder Lounge for 20% off? Purchase a Black Black Friday Card for any amount and get an instant 20% discount! Then, use it to enjoy a delicious meal in Ballard, or at 100+ other Black-owned small businesses.

You’ll save big while supporting Black-owned businesses in the Seattle area. Learn more and get yours today!

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