On Monday, June 18 of 2018, Good Coffee eagerly opened the doors to our third coffee bar, located in Portland’s Slabtown neighborhood. It was a moment filled with much anticipation. This was our first cafe on the city’s west side, and exploring our way into a new and developing neighborhood was extremely exciting. We encountered fresh spaces, new faces, and newfangled environments to grow how we do hospitality and serve our neighbors. Slabtown has been a unique experience — settling into a community that has both redesigned and reinvigorated a neighborhood with a rich, distinct history.
Slabtown finds its roots in industry. The neighborhood’s name originated in the 1870’s when Portland’s latest lumber mill was built on Northwest Northrup Street. Discarded wood, called “slabwood,” would often be collected by those who lived in the neighborhood. Populated primarily by those who worked blue collar production jobs, these slabs would be stacked outside their homes and used as cheap fuel. Whether it was a lumber mill, slaughterhouse, or job on the Willamette River doc, Slabtown was a community of industry and workers without whom our city’s development wouldn’t have been the same. Its industrial legacy has carried over into where we find ourselves today — in a neighborhood sandwiched between Northwest 23rd and The Pearl, booming with construction, creative office, light manufacturing, residences…and filled with a versatile populace of visitors, workers, and residents. The resulting mix of people creating things (& ideas) during the work week, and coming home to experience rest and rejuvenation during the evenings and weekends — is nothing short of special. Needless to say, we’ve fallen in love with this part of the city.
We began construction for Good Coffee Slabtown in late 2017. When the weather took a turn for the better in April of ’18, we setup our mobile cart on the loading dock outside of our soon-to-be cafe, and began slinging drinks / giving people pre-opening tours of the approaching finished product. The space would live on the ground floor of Slabtown’s Leland James Building, named after the founder of Consolidated Freightways. The engineers in Jame’s company played an integral role in developing the freight liner by using aluminum chassis instead of steel. And it’s this model of progress and innovation that we see modeled in the work of those we get to serve daily in our coffee bars.
Our mobile coffee bar experience was an exciting and essential beginning to our story in Northwest Portland. Quite literally, we were able to meet our customers (and guests) where they were at, on the street. Being in the open air, serving espresso on crisp weekday mornings, and getting to encounter our new neighbors on their way to work, or headed for a run in Forest Park, was just as dreamy as it sounds. It provided us a way to share our story, both to old friends who welcomed us into their part of the city, and to new faces who were encountering Good for the first time. It also enabled us to hear the stories that come with jumping the river to the Westside, and moving into a new community we had never served before.
Our Slabtown store has now been open for a 8 amazing months. Seeing this community (and cafe) grow has been a wild and fun ride. From summer mornings with the garage door up, to bustling weekends — serving residents and visitors alike — being on the ground as Slabtown develops is something GOOD is proud to be a part of. Sharing a building with other businesses has allowed our hospitality to take new forms. Sharing a neighborhood with residents, restaurants and a grocery store is a special intersection where we get to experience people ‘doing life’ in a variety of ways. We’re excited to see what the future brings as this industrial northwest neighborhood continues to evolve with new work, new people and new adventures. Opening on the Westside of Portland was one of our big adventures for 2018. We love this city — and we’re grateful to keep playing our part in supporting and serving this city… now on both sides of the river!
By Alexander Pierpoint