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Regional Voices: Shahrokh “Shawn” Nikfar – Northwest Fair Housing Alliance, Caffe Affogato

Shahrokh “Shawn” Nikfar is an assistant director of the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance and owner of Caffe Affogato, a popular downtown coffee shop.

 What brought him to Spokane: When I was a teenager growing up in Iran, my sister, who was a physician at Spokane’s Veterans Administration hospital, persuaded me to move here to attend college in 1980. I left twice for jobs in Seattle and Southern California after I got my graduate degree, but kept missing Spokane and have now returned for good.

Why he launched “The Persian Hour,” a local radio program, 12 years ago: The show was intended to create awareness and understanding, and to overcome fear with kindness.

Other enterprises: I started building my restaurant (Mediterrano) and coffee shop (Caffe Affogato) in 2014. It took a full year before we were ready to open.

Challenges entrepreneurs face: There is a lot of potential for growth in Spokane, but it takes time. I closed Mediterrano just shy of its two-year anniversary, mainly because I was stretched too thin with two businesses, a radio show, a full-time job and family responsibilities. Mediterrano needed someone who was more present and had deeper pockets. However, Caffe Affogato continues to thrive, and I truly enjoy it.

Career opportunities: This is a great place for startups. I think young professionals who enjoy an active lifestyle and the outdoors would find Spokane an ideal place to live.

How Spokane has evolved: Change has always been slow in Spokane, but there seems to be new momentum today. The art scene is flourishing, more young people are staying, and a lot of people from bigger cities are moving here.

Spokane’s advantages: I love the people, and our location is ideal for enjoying the outdoors.

Goals: We have the potential to become more of a hub for arts and higher education. I also would like to see the city develop infrastructure that is more people and environment friendly.

Businesses which would be a good fit: Small high-tech companies, the movie industry, startups focusing on outdoor activities, and colleges all would do well here.

What Shawn likes most about living here: Life in Spokane has a comfortable, small-town feel. Yet we enjoy many big-city perks, as well.

Where he takes out-of-town visitors: I love Riverfront Park, the Spokane Falls, and downtown’s many small shops. I also enjoy taking them to South Hill’s Manito Park for a gentle walk, or to Mount Spokane for a vigorous hike or snowshoeing.

How he relaxes: I meet my friends at Caffe Affogato.

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