When the streetlights come on, when other people begin to wind down, to settle in for the night — that’s when Zade Hakki goes to work.
The 19-year-old Kennewick man heads to the Dutch Bros. Coffee on West Clearwater Avenue, next to a women’s-only 24-hour gym and a Sprint store.
He works the graveyard shift, arriving a little before 11 p.m. and working the window until dawn or close to it.
Hakki mixes up drinks — from The Kicker, a popular Irish cream breve, to candy cane hot chocolate and iced concoctions.
And he gives the stand a good cleaning, using downtime to make the counters, the machines sparkle.
But where Hakki really shines — where he sparkles — is at the window.
Customers get a wide smile, a warm greeting.
And, more often than you might expect, they find in the tattooed coffee-slinger a sympathetic ear, even a kindred spirit.
“There’s a customer who came through ... She commented on my cross tattoo, said she liked it,” Hakki recalled. “She said, ‘You’re a Christian?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m a Christian.’ We started talking about our religions. She shared her life story with me. I shared mine. We’ve just always talked.”
The woman is in her 60s, while Hakki is two years out of high school. But they’ve become friends, through the window.
I’d be up anyway, so I might as well get paid for it.
Zade Hakki, Kennewick broista
For Dutch Bros., which has locations throughout the western U.S., being warm and chatty isn’t merely an expectation. It’s part of the culture.
And for Hakki, it seems to come naturally, from a genuine place.
“He works super hard for the crew, for me, for the customers. We really look up to Zade as a leader,” said Keith Whitford, who owns the three Dutch Bros. in Kennewick.
Hakki graduated from Southridge High School in Kennewick in 2014.
He became certified as a personal trainer and was working a retail job. Then he heard about the Dutch Bros. gig through a friend and was hired on more than a year ago. He’s worked his way up to assistant manager.
Hakki pulls some noon and night shifts during the week. But he has a special affinity for the graveyard hours.
He comes alive at night. “I’d be up anyway, so I might as well get paid for it,” he said.
Some overnight shifts are busier than others. When the Herald visited between midnight and 1 a.m. on a recent evening, Hakki spent a good chunk of the time cleaning.
But a couple customers came through. Heading to or from work, or the gym, or wherever.
Hakki made them drinks. He chatted with them, leaning through the window.
For him, those connections are the best part of the job.
In one case a few months back, a late-night connection might have saved a life.
“It was at like 2 in the morning, I was all alone,” Hakki said, standing by the window as he told the story.
A man drove up, and he and Hakki got to talking.
“He was a smart dude. I was just sitting in the windowsill talking to him. Like 45 minutes went by and he was talking and talking. A car pulled up behind him and he was like, ‘I’ve got to go.’ I was like, ‘Well, have a great night.’ I was just telling him how awesome it was to talk to him, how I love talking to people like this,” Hakki said.
A cup of coffee will make someone’s day. I get to talk to (people) and make them happy.
Zade Hakki, Kennewick broista
And then the man stopped. “He told me, ‘Hey’ — it makes me shake to talk about it — ‘I was going to kill myself tonight,’ ” Hakki said.
The 19-year-old shook a little as he remembered the moment.
The man had been at a family function and it hadn’t gone well. He felt alone, like no one cared about him.
But Hakki broke through, with his smile and his warmth.
“He said, like, ‘Thank you so much for talking to me and making me feel like someone cares about me,’” Hakki said. “I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. He pulled away and the next people pulled up ready to order.
“... I just thought I was making a cup of coffee for a dude, just talking. It’s crazy what that can do.”
In Dutch Bros. parlance, Hakki and his co-workers are “broistas,” a play on the traditional “barista.”
When Hakki joined the Clearwater stand more than a year ago, he didn’t necessarily think of the job as having long-term potential.
But that’s changed. The stand is a place where he can excel, move up the ladder.
Where he can do some good, from his side of the window.
“A cup of coffee will make someone’s day,” Hakki said, as he waited for the next customer to roll up. “I get to talk to (people) and make them happy.”