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Earlier in the day, Dempsey said he planned to be very involved in the running of the company, adding that the immediate challenges were to address bookkeeping issues, staff morale and sprucing up the coffee shops. Once the business is stabilized, Dempsey said the long-term goal would be to take the chain national.

“We can pull this off. We just have to take steps that are slow and smart,” he said. “I’m going to get behind the counter. I’m going to serve coffee…I’m going to give the company a boost of energy.”

Although Dempsey lives in Los Angeles, he plans to spend more time in Seattle, the city where “Grey’s Anatomy” is set in. Dempsey said he believed there is room in the city for Tully’s and the much larger Starbucks; he noted there might be people who are rooting for the underdog.

“In a society where there are so many big corporations that swallow the little guy, we thought, let’s not let this happen to this company,” he said.

Dempsey made an appearance Friday morning at a Tully’s near Pike Place Market, shaking hands with workers and greeting customers before visiting other stores. Several dozen people, mostly women, came into the store.

Patrease Estelle, 45, works nearby, and came in with a small group from her office.

“I will take whatever I can get. A photo, a hug, a `hey, how you doing,’ a wink,” said Estelle, who got a picture and handshake with the actor.


Blankinship reported from Seattle and Choi from New York.