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Ada’s Technical Books builds quirky community on Capitol Hill

Photo credit: Cindy Apple
A view of Ada's bookstore, with shelves on the right and a customer seating area to the left.

Photo: Cindy Apple

Ada’s Technical Books, established at their current location in 2013, embraces Seattle’s nerdy population, old and new, and is dedicated to building community in the neighborhood in partnership with the 15th Ave Merchants Association. Owners Danielle and David Hulton combine bookstore, café, coworking space, tech paradise, and event space all into one. “When we moved in, it was super run down and it was still laid out as a house – which gave us a lot of freedom to do whatever we wanted to the space,” says Danielle Hulton.

As proud, long-time Capitol Hill residents, the Hultons were passionate about keeping the exterior of the store looking the same as it has for years, choosing to build around and include existing elements of the house in the storefront. Before Ada’s, the space was Horizon Books, another bookstore and a longstanding staple of the 15th Ave community. To Danielle, Ada’s is a space for the newer tech community to gather, for café-goers to stumble upon, and for everyone to explore. “Someone might come in and be looking for a cup of coffee but then start playing with the puzzles on the shelf… and if that piques their interest, then that’s a win.” Danielle says.

A barista grabbing a cup behind the counter at the Ada's cafe.

Photo credit: Cindy Apple.

Ada’s is a meld of Danielle’s background in electrical engineering and various wide-spread interests.  In the beginning, Ada’s was a staple spot for books about all things technical, from coding and programming manuals to children’s books to hands-on logic puzzles. The Hultons’ aim was to represent every aspect of the tech community. A good friend of Danielle’s used her food science background to get the in-house vegetarian and vegan restaurant menu off the ground in the cafe. As the years went on, the demand for a gathering space grew, and Ada’s listened. In 2016, The Lab at Ada’s became a rentable event space hosting public and private events, available for anything from work celebrations, anniversaries, and themed parties. Many pieces of furniture at Ada’s were made locally or especially for the space, and the Marie Curie-themed Lab even offers specialty cocktails concocted by the Ada’s staff. The Office, which opened in 2014, gives monthly desk renters 24/7 access to the space and a place to call home right on 15th Ave.

Moving to 15th Ave in 2013 was a jump of faith that Hulton says would not have been the same without the support of their neighbors and the 15th Ave Merchants Association. As a business district organization, the 15th Ave Merchants Association organizes community-wide events such as the 15th Ave Street Fest, where local businesses come together to celebrate and showcase their specialties. The association works together to build a stronger community by sharing expertise and supporting each other’s businesses.

A display of books and products, with customers sitting at tables in the background.

Photo credit: Cindy Apple.

“When we were first renovating, so many of the other businesses came by and welcomed us,” Danielle says, “we felt so supported and I think right then, we knew 15th Ave was going to be home.” Danielle is also a member of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and is excited to form 15th Ave into even more of a community. “Because 15th Ave is somewhat separate from the rest of Capitol Hill, it’s sometimes forgotten. There’s so much expertise shared between the merchants and we’re going to highlight that.”

Whether it’s through her work with the Merchants Association or through the many facets of her own business, Danielle is finding all sorts of ways to bring people together. Her latest venture is Ada’s Discovery Cafe—stop by to explore the science behind coffee and try some delicious, experimental drinks.

The Office of Economic Development Only in Seattle team is here to help support the neighborhood business districts who do so much to help one another. To learn more about our work, visit our website.