Make Coffee, Not War

Tully’s founder helps local vets start some “competition.”

Tully's founder and chairman Tom O'Keefe is the kind of corporate bigwig who raises funds for safe charities like cystic fibrosis and juvenile diabetes--not the kind of guy you expect to jump into league with a bunch of peace activists. But when O'Keefe heard about a group of antiwar veterans who were looking to open a coffee shop for soldiers on the outskirts of Fort Lewis, he rushed to help. "I thought their story was compelling in that they wanted to help other vets transition back into day-to-day life outside the military," says O'Keefe. The son of a Marine who served in World War II and the brother of a Vietnam vet, he's pledged about $15,000 worth of equipment, including an espresso machine, tables, and chairs, to the effort, according to Seth Manzel, co-director of GI Voice Inc., a Lakewood-area group that is spearheading the effort, along with the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The establishment will be known as Coffee Strong, homage to the slogan "Army Strong." O'Keefe says Tully's has "no political motives here," and that he told the entrepreneurs that "while I didn't necessarily agree with some of their positions, I nonetheless respected their rights, and rights that they fought to protect, to have a different opinion than me." He also adds that he's used to wading into hot water: When he was senior class president at Issaquah High School during the Vietnam War, he took stock of the fact that "college deferment wasn't in the cards for many," and scheduled a draft counselor to speak to his class. "You can't even imagine the fallout," he says. Manzel says that Coffee Strong will mainly offer a place for soldiers to hang out. Although he expects Iraq Veterans Against the War to have a desk there, as well as The GI Rights Hotline, a coalition of organizations that advise AWOL and other soldiers about their rights, he says, "It's not going to be pushing anything in anyone's face." Still, Terry Harder, co-founder of Operation Support Our Troops, says he expects that the backers' politics will put soldiers off, and adds that they already have a favorite hangout near the base in Galloping Gerties Restaurant. There are also several Fort Lewis coffee shops called Especially Espresso, which serve a brew called "Battle Bean." Maybe Coffee Strong needs its own catchy blend. Détente Decaf, perhaps?

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