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Person Behind The Place: Sara Refsland

February 1, 2022 - by Sandy Vo


Categories Heart of Bellevue Person Behind the Place

Person Behind The Place:
Sara Refsland

Manager | Caffe Ladro

After being a stay-at-home mom for six years, Sara Refsland wanted to get back to a career in coffee. She had previously worked at Starbucks but wanted to try a different company culture. Taking advice from former coffee colleagues, Refsland applied and got a job at Caffe Ladro in Issaquah. After three months of working as a barista, she was promoted to store manager where she stayed the next four years.

On the Eastside, big changes were happening. Caffe Ladro Bellevue, located in Expedia’s old headquarters, was taken over by Amazon in 2020. Wanting to create a space of their own, Amazon remodeled Caffe Ladro’s space with an earthy and modern design. Last October, Caffe Ladro reopened in need of a qualified manager to run the area. Knowing exactly the expertise and potential she could bring to the new space, Refsland was offered the position immediately. Hear more about why she loves to work at Caffe Ladro and her go-to spots in Downtown Bellevue.

What about Caffe Ladro made it a great place to restart your coffee career?

I like the vision that Caffe Ladro has for their staff and their coffee. Founder Jack Kelly prides himself in making sure everyone that works for him gets a living wage. We also continue to support direct trade. We have our own roastery and our own bakery that services all 18 locations. Hearing from the coffee pros around me and eventually working here, I can say that Caffe Ladro is a perfect size, big enough to have opportunities but small enough where you still feel like you’re part of a family. 

Favorite part about being a manager at Caffe Ladro?

I’m a people person through and through. Being a manager is empowering. I love training others to know the craft and feel proud of the craft as a viable career to keep growing in. The other side of being a people person is loving the customers too, especially my regulars that come in all the time. I can get to know their lives and get to know what’s happening with them throughout the pandemic. The times that we are open, even though it’s limited right now, is a way for me to give people a little slice of normality. They can come get coffee and just enjoy themselves -- I love giving that to people.

What makes Caffe Ladro stand out from other coffee shops in the area?

Our bread and butter is The Medici, a dark chocolate mocha with fresh orange zest and espresso. This drink is a great place to start. If you’re looking to try some food, we definitely recommend our quiche. We have a bacon and ham quiche along with our mushroom and cheese. They’re both really good, I love how flaky the pie crust is.

What do you love about working in Downtown?

I’m still new to Downtown Bellevue but so far, I’ve enjoyed meeting people that work around here and hang out here. The community in Bellevue has been amazing. 

Do you have a favorite place to dine out?

My favorite dessert spot has to be Lady Yum at the moment, I really like them. FOB Poke Bar downstairs from Caffe Ladro is great, I’ve had several poke bowls already. No surprise, I like to venture to other coffee shops, especially Anchorhead Coffee. Their coffee is amazing too.

What are your favorite places to shop?

I love organizing my house, so I’ve been frequenting The Container Store. There’s definitely a lot more I need to explore.

Any hidden gems in Downtown you'd like to share?

The hidden gem I’ve found so far is Bellden Cafe. They have great avocado toast and amazing brunch items. The customer service is amazing. Their owner is really involved in the community and they just have great food and coffee.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I like to think I’m still in the growth phase. I could see myself opening my own café or continuing to advance at Caffe Ladro in another leadership position. I’m open to either one of those things happening. If I were to open my own café, it would be all about the feeling. I want to create a place that feels like a third place where you can come to: there’s work, there’s home and then there’s the café where you feel warm and welcoming. I haven’t put it together yet but maybe someday.


Follow Caffe Ladro for up-to-date information about the company and more food & drinks recommendation.

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Person Behind the Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.

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Caffe Ladro
333 108th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

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