Chera Amlag at Hood Famous Cafe + Bar. Photo courtesy of Chera Amlag.

From humble roots beginning with a monthly pop-up called Food and Sh*t, to opening her first storefront in Ballard, and now with a brick and mortar cafe in the Chinatown-International District, Chera Amlag (along with her husband Geo Quibuyen) have come a long way. With all of these accomplishments, it is no surprise that Amlag is being recognized by the International Examiner, and is this year’s 2019 Business Leadership Award recipient.

Together with her husband Geo Quibuyen, finding a home in Chinatown-International District (CID) for her new Hood Famous Cafe + Bar was an intentional, and significant decision. Reflecting on her history and connection with the neighborhood, she shared:

“It is very significant to be able to open up Hood Famous Cafe + Bar in a neighborhood that we have a deep personal connection with. One of my first memories of the C-ID is going to an isangmahal (one love in Tagalog) show at the Theatre Off Jackson in my early 20s. It was a monthly open mic organized by a kollective of Filipino poets, dancers, djs, and other artists often highlighting the immigrant experience. We became active members and helped curate the monthly shows.”

She continued, “After college, Geo landed a job at The Wing Luke Asian Museum and I accepted a position at WAPIFASA (Washington Asian Pacific Islander Families Against Substance Abuse) on Maynard. Geo conducted and transcribed oral histories and curated exhibits, while I ran after school and summer programs for neighborhood youth. We learned a lot about the history of Filipino Americans and other marginalized and immigrant communities in the district.”

“Knowing the rich Filipino American history and current struggle for recognition of Filipino Town in the C-ID, we wanted to make sure that the experience guests had in our shop extended beyond serving great food, drink, and hospitality, but also evokes a connection from past to present. We worked with the Filipino American National Historical Society to showcase black & white archival photos on our walls to highlight and honor the legacy of folks who lived, worked, and ran businesses in the district long before we did. We put a lot of work and intention in the design of the space and hope that the shop helps guests that come in learn or remember the Filipino presence in the district, and for those that feel there isn’t enough spaces in the city that reflects them — that they feel the comfort of being seen.”

The intersectionality of Amlag’s identity — as a small business owner, a woman of color and immigrant — has all shaped and influenced the way she advocates for the community and runs her small business. The impact that these aspects have on her small business is apparent, with Hood Famous Cafe + Bar becoming a vibrant, bustling space that pays homage to the neighborhood’s former Filipino Town. It has become a recognizable gathering space for community building and camaraderie in the C-ID, and a clear reflection of Amlag’s approach to running her small business for social good and community benefit.

Hood Famous ube cheesecakes. Photo by Auriza Ugalino.

With about six years of Amlag creating and perfecting her delectable ube cheesecakes, her perseverance has proven to be worth it. Her achievements to date have been nothing short of remarkable, and for current and future community leaders she shares, “Persistence really pays off, and everything takes time. That is why it’s so important for you to believe in and feel passionately about what you’re creating, offering, advocating for.” With the expansion of the Hood Famous brand in the C-ID and an expanding menu at the Cafe + Bar, there seems to be no slowing down for Amlag anytime soon.

Hood Famous Cafe + Bar is located at 504 5th Avenue S, Suite 107A, open Monday-Thursday 7am-3pm, Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm. The Bakeshop is located at 2325½ NW Market St., open Thursday-Sunday 11am-8pm. To learn more, visit www.hoodfamousbakeshop.com

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