Ready For Take-Off: Aviation-themed Jato Café, art gallery newest addition to downtown coffeehouse scene

Drop by the Jato Café on Broadway for an espresso, and you may feel like you’ve entered an aviation museum. Black-and-white photographs of bombers and jets line the freshly painted walls. A vintage King Kong movie poster depicts the famous ape swatting bi-planes above the New York City skyline. Even the café’s name has its roots in aviation: Jato means ‘Jet-Assisted Take-Off.’

The theme makes sense considering the owner, Steve Sherman, is a pilot and aviation buff.

Jato Café’s history traces back to a warehouse in Kent, where Sherman ran an art publishing wholesale company. Through that business, he distributed decorative and aviation/transportation artwork to galleries around the world. Last spring, Sherman and Mandy Maxwell, the company’s manager, wanted to open a retail location and expand the business.

“We wanted to be in an arts-oriented location,” Maxwell says, describing the decision to move to downtown Tacoma. The city’s urban center is home to the Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass, and a score of galleries and studios. The café opened on Nov. 12 in the same building that houses the Tacoma School of the Arts (SOTA). “We went from running one business to running three,” explains Maxwell, referring to Jato’s function as a retail art gallery, wholesale distributor, and coffee shop.

Jato Café offers free wireless Internet, and plans to install computer stations for visitors to check e-mail or surf the Web. It has also developed a relationship with its neighbor, staying open late to serve SOTA meetings and events. The café’s large sofas provide a comfortable atmosphere, and the adjacent art gallery is open to browsers and buyers.

“It’s quiet here, and there aren’t that many distractions,” says Maxwell. “Business people can come here to work, and we’re open late on the weekends for people who want to wind down.”

Jato Café is located at 1117 Broadway in downtown Tacoma. For more information, contact the café at (253) 284-0974 or online at