Patrick Robinson
Lora Swift started Hotwire On-Line Coffeehouse ten years ago in a tiny space next to the West Seattle Post Office. It's been a success ever since. CLICK THE PHOTO ABOVE TO SEE MORE.

Hotwire On-line Coffeehouse celebrates a decade of success

Ten years in a tiny space with terrific results

Hotwire On-line Coffeehouse at 4410 California Ave. s.w. operates in a space many might find too small for a closet and yet, through drive, determination, intelligence and innovation, Lora Swift has made it an unqualified success. This week the business celebrates its tenth year.

Being located next to the West Seattle Post Office has given it a great visibility but Swift has demonstrated her acumen by reaching out to the community in many ways to give back and deepen her roots here.

Hotwire is a primary sponsor and host for the annual West Seattle Outdoor Movies that happen in the courtyard of Dr. Wolff next door for a few warm nights every summer. Furry Faces Foundation holds a plant sale there frequently. The West Seattle Artwalk includes Hotwire as a main location every month and Swift herself is one of the founders and motivators in the alternative arts organization, The West.

Swift said, "Before this I was a regional manager for AAA and I was in the insurance business ever since I got out of college. But when I was 16 years old I sat my parents down and told them I wanted to own my own business before I was 40. So when I hit my mid thirties I thought to myself, I've got five more years to live my dreams. Because I'm a little bit of an overachiever I did it a little bit early. I started Hotwire then and here I am ten years later and still going strong."

Hotwire serves 150 people a day on average and Swift is always developing new coffee combinations and specialty beverages, but Swift is a naturally innovative personality and a few years ago introduced Textwire, a way for those with smartphones to text their drink request to a special number (206.321.0387) and have it waiting for them when they arrive. Customers can of course keep a coffee card on file with a credit balance so even the transaction itself is made faster.

Organic coffee, teas, and the usual pastries and cookies are available but "sometimes people come in here just for a doggie snack," Swift said.

"Hotwire is the belly button of West Seattle", said Kathleen Sweeney, a regular, "We all come here and get centered. We're lint in the bellybutton. Lora does so many good and wonderful things for West Seattle. She's community minded. I love the movies and the projects and the drives. It's like Cheers. They know your name, they know your drink. They predict your mood and lighten your day and send you on your way."

But the name of the business includes "Online Coffeehouse" and the company while it still provides free wi-fi (fading at some coffee shops) and a row of computers to go online with has embraced social media and the internet culture in a serious way. So much so that Swift herself has branched out well beyond the confines of the tiny space.

She's formed a separate business called Swift Media Solutions that offers internet and social media consulting "for mostly the music industry now," said Swift, "and non-profits." Coming up for 2013 is a new venture called Sky Studios that will, "socialize small business videos."

But back at Hotwire the innovation continues.

"We're private labeling LevelUp (a way to pay for small transactions with a smart phone) so people will be able to connect their credit or debit card with an account and we can scan from our ipad (which now serves as their cash register too...another innovation)." You can get the app from iTunes or the Android Marketplace.

Hotwire has six employees and two interns work with Swift Media, so Swift herself keeps busy. Keeping up with her would be a challenge but she has plenty of caffeine on hand if you'd like to try.

You can like them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here.

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