Portland loses an institution
Updated: Oct 26, 2019
For whatever reason, I have found myself numerous times in this city being in the right place at the right time, and being able to catalog some pretty phenomenal events. The network around me is vast yet tight, and having worked 17+ years in the coffee industry has allowed me to spin a fascinating web in which to collect people and experiences.
Last April I was hired at Southeast Grind, Portland's only 24 hour coffee shop. To be honest, I was wary at first as it was pretty worn around the edges, but a reality-check type conversation with my best friend reminded me that things aren't always about appearances. I was wanting something flexible and near my house in which I could work and build up A la Carte - an idea I have had for years. The Grind provided both of those things, so I jumped in.
I was very quickly accepted into the fold by a pride of fellow "old timer" baristas, most in their thirties. Our conversations both on and off the clock have taken some wild turns, and our in-house experiences provide for the best stories around. I've always balked at workplaces that boast "we're a big family!", because what that usually boils down to is a whole lot of dysfunction (like my own family), and I wanted none of that. This time was different - these OTBs did become like my family, along with a handful of steadfast regulars. You know it's good when the employees all hang out on the job even when they're not working - sometimes not even at all that day.
Then last week we found out our decade long run was coming to an end, and people have been losing their minds.
The six months I've had at this espresso-fueled institution pale in comparison to the more than 5 consecutive years Krystina has had. Or the landing pad that has been a safe space for hundreds of artists, writers, computer programmers, musicians, and service persons alike. Every single day for the past ten days has been like breaking up with dozens of people each shift - and it's fucking gut wrenching to watch their hearts shatter through their eyes as they wonder where they're going to go now. Not seeing my morning regulars everyday is going to be rough - I really look forward to reconnecting with people for five, ten minutes every day and being able to check in with them. Being a barista is so much more than knowing about coffee. To be honest, I very rarely get to have the in-depth conversations about coffee that a veteran barista is capable of having - my guests don't care so much what's in their cup, as long as it's served up with love.
Our regulars at Southeast Grind have let us know wholeheartedly that we've done our jobs well. Their cups have overflowed with the love they added in, and we feel it.
For that I will forever be grateful.
Your neighborhood barista,
*All latte art pictures are my own*