Karen’s Corner

Meet Karen:

Karen True is the Director of Business & Community Development for the Alliance for Pioneer Square. In our neighborhood, her approach to business development is the secret sauce. Part retail recruitment, part matchmaker, full-time community builder.

Medzo Gelato Bar & Travel Cafe: Locally owned and operated, Medzo(106 James Street) offers house-made artisan gelato and sorbet using organic dairy and the highest-quality, natural ingredients. Exotic flavors of the Mediterranean are featured in their rotating menu with spirited options and lounge seating. Local owner-operators Jennifer and Fareed Al-Abboud invite you to step into the Mediterranean Zone for a unique dessert experience.

A chance meeting between Jennifer and Fareed at a Spoken salsa dancing class in 2002, a stint in Dubai where both taught, two gelato-related training excursions to Italy, and a myriad of brick and mortar locations finally led Jennifer and Fareed to the Pioneer Building in Pioneer Square. They continue to operate their Burien location. 

What is Karen excited about this week?

Karen opens with excitement about the inspiration that Pioneer Square’s business community emits. The businesses in Pioneer Square showcase amazing, quality products- but the character of the neighborhood extends beyond items on shelves or display cases. Karen says, “Pioneer Square is a fabric knitted with committed business owners who are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed in the neighborhood.” Jennifer and Fareed are exemplary of this aspect of Pioneer Square. “Medzo’s start-up here was not easy,” Karen states. “The Al-Abboud’s experienced significant challenges throughout their time up until and even after they opened.” Air conditioning installation delays and gelato machine breakdowns challenged Medzo during the early times in the neighborhood. “Throughout all of that, they made it work,” Karen says. In a Seattle Times article penned shortly after Medzo opened, Jennifer calls the business “a labor of love.”

In a recent tour of Pioneer Square with a prospective business operator, Karen was reminded of the type of business operator the neighborhood attracts. “This person used to have a presence in the neighborhood over ten years ago, but the community was not quite ready for that business at that time. Now they are considering a return to Pioneer Square. They understand the neighborhood’s quirks and envision our community’s future and vibrant potential,” Karen observes.

Pioneer Square is comprised of several long time business owners, employees, and residents. “I think about Sedat Uysal at Café Paloma who has been here for 20 years or the team at Stonington Gallery who will celebrate 40 years of operating in December. Pioneer Square is lucky to have such savvy business owners who have been incredibly nimble and resilient throughout the neighborhood and Seattle’s hard times,” Karen says. Or consider Peter Miller Books. Karen says, “I don’t think there is an architect in Seattle who is not familiar with Peter. It’s the people in our neighborhood that makes Pioneer Square so special–the residents, the business staff, and business owners.”