Walk into Miir on Stone Way and chances are your first thought—What a beautiful place!—will be followed by, But what is it?
It’s the future. Miir, a blend of the Russian word for “peace” and environmentalist pioneer John Muir’s last name, began as a water-bottle maker channeling a portion of its proceeds into clean-water projects across the developing world. They’ve added lines of socially conscious growlers, bags, even bikes. But what likely drew you is the coffee, or the breakfast burritos, or the 21 rotating beers on tap.
It’s the new breed of retail, restaurant, and bar mashup increasingly found all over town—in bookstores (Little Oddfellows Cafe in Elliott Bay Books, Raconteur and Vios in Third Place Books), in bike shops (Métier, Peloton), in clothing stores from the boutique (E. Smith Mercantile) to the corporate (Nordstrom).
Why? In an age of online competitors, brick-and-mortar retailers can crank the allure of their physical spaces by offering food and drink. Twenty-one brews on tap is no small enticement—for obvious reasons, yes, but also because those taps create community, enhance the brand, increase the physical equivalent of “time on page”—indeed, build a sense of place.
The results are exquisite gems like Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe on Capitol Hill, whose precisely ordered rows of scientific, mathematical, and technical titles conspire with fine coffee and flaky pastries and thoughtful day- and nighttime entrees into a single eloquent aesthetic, alive with the authenticity and community one can’t find on a screen—but only hidden in the folds of real life.