Monthly Archives: October 2011

Portland Roasting enters the retail coffee scene with Oregon Convention Center shops

(Taken from

A longtime local roaster will open its first coffee shop Sunday in a spot that carried Starbucks’ logo for a decade.

It’s Portland Roasting’s first step in taking on its biggest retail competitors by selling itself as a green alternative. The company will compost its cups, deliver coffee beans by bike and sell nearly all local products at a pair of Oregon Convention Center coffee shops that it won away from Starbucks during a bidding process earlier this year.

Portland Roasting spent 15 years quietly building a $6 million business by buying coffee direct from growers and selling to wholesalers and restaurants. Now it’s targeting licensed stores — the small shops and kiosks that already brew coffee under a different name — to build its brand without adding hefty operating costs.
“In order for our brand to grow, we need to have some store presence,” said managing partner Mark Stell. “The opportunity for us is to go after Starbucks.”

After almost a year of planning, Portland Roasting’s first licensed store opens in days, introducing convention goers from around the world to its sustainable mission.
“It’s opening a door where there has never been before,” Stell said.
The coffee industry is already taking note. One of its top trade magazines, locally based Roast, named Portland Roasting its large roaster of the year last week.

Licensed stores like the convention center outlets also allow the company to build its brand without assuming the biggest risks of brick and mortar businesses. The local roaster pitched the idea earlier this year to Aramark, the convention center’s food vendor, and Metro, the regional government that operates the convention center. Stell and others spent months lining up local vendors, such as Umpqua Oats, to showcase in the store.
The second store will open in December.

Portland Roasting will control the concept and products, down to the coffee beans delivered by bike from its Southeast headquarters. But it won’t own the store itself, and Aramark will employ the workers and handle operations. Other bidders couldn’t beat Portland Roasting’s focus on local products and its sustainable practices, said Teri Dresler,  general manager for Metro’s visitor venues including the convention center.

“It’s exciting to have a home-grown business that we’re doing a big business with at the convention center,” Dresler said. “National conventioneers will be here and be able to taste Portland, literally.”
Although Aramark operates the stores, Metro helps manage the partnership. Dealing with a local business made sense from a financial perspective, she said.
Aramark will pay Portland Roasting $300,000 to operate the stores over the five year contract, Metro spokeswoman Stephanie Soden said.

The food vendor had already budgeted $150,000 worth of coffee shop upgrades as part of its agreement with Starbucks, but it spent the money transforming the spots into Portland Roasting cafes instead. Aramark stands to save $150,000 during the new five-year contract, Dresler said, because Portland Roasting doesn’t charge certain annual fees that Starbucks does.
Together, the two stores generate about $450,000 every year in sales, Soden said.

Still, Portland Roasting’s retail share will remain relatively small. The 26-person company earns about 40 percent of its revenue from wholesale customers. It also has strong office distribution and institutional sales, such as hotel chains.

It’s high volume sales are rooted in its founding. Portland Roasting became one of the first coffee roasters to buy direct from buyers, giving Stell and other a chance to check fair practices first hand. But that meant the company had to buy large amounts of beans to make the process pencil out.
This year, the company expects to roast 840,000 pounds of coffee, Stell said. The Convention Center stores likely won’t drive up the volume by a noticeable amount.

The real value is in the branding opportunity. About half of the Convention Center’s foot traffic is from out of town. And the company plans to model future shops after the convention center stores. In addition to regional stores, Stell is discussing licensing opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Japan, where it already has a big exporting business.
“What we focus on is great coffee and selling that message,” Stell said.

Portland Roasting
340 S.E. 7th Ave., Portland
Employees: 26
Founded: 1996
Revenue: $6 million expected in 2011, an 11 percent increase from 2010.
What they do: Distribute coffee beans that they buy from growers and roast in house. They also sell other coffee related products, such as flavored syrups.

Team NWEA: From the Suburbs to the Heart of Portland

(Taken directly from the BTA’s Blog:

Editor’s note: We’re excited to welcome new BTA business member Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) as the first contributors to the Business Member Guest Blog series. Businesses and “super advocates” (as NWEA refers to their biking champions) keep pushing the bar to encourage more bike commuting and better serve customers and workers who ride bikes. Enjoy! -MM

Guest author: Paula Funatake, NWEA

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) moved December 20, 2010 from Lake Oswego to downtown Portland in to the former Port of Portland building at NW 2nd & NW Everett. While this is Team NWEA’s 3rd year participating in the BCC, this is their first year at their new location. Bike commuting growth has been phenomenal, to say the least!

Super advocates at NWEA helped add more bike parking to keep up with the growing number of bike commuters.

What bike facilities are provided at NWEA?

We were fortunate that the building already had a secure, indoor bike storage room and we had full support from Operations and Facilities during the build-out to preserve this space. Within the bike room there are lockers and rack space for 15 bikes.

Post-move and as the weather began drying out, we were starting to run out of space for more bike commuters. Working with Facilities we were able to re-purpose an old, fenced storage area for a new overflow rack. Staff now have access to this overflow area during the week, and they can use it to keep their bike on-site for weekend riding. With the increase in bike commuters plans are in the works to expand our bike parking capacity.

The NWEA facilities include additional lockers and showers for all staff, including bike commuters.

How are cyclists supported at NWEA?

This has been the fun part. Tom Orth and Paula Funatake could spend hours just talking about bikes, cycling, bike racing and the fun of bicycling. Their enthusiasm along with the new building sparked a cooperative effort to encourage more staff to try bike commuting as well as just making connecting with each easier. Through coordinating an organizational event for the Bike to Work Week and Day back in May, they held an informational bike commute brown bag and arranged a breakfast for bike commuters on the Bike to Work day. There were a few first time bike commuters and that was really great!

A NWEA Bicyclist email list was created for people to ask questions, share stories and expertise and just have some fun around the general topic of cycling, not just commuting. Over the past months Tom and Paula have become the informal bike advocates and contacts when questions, issues or concerns come up. Many of our cyclists are also roving advocates encouraging and helping other newer or interested bike commuters.

Recently, one of our VPs has done some bike commuting and has become our Super Advocate, Anne Udall. Together we have had a great time looking into expanding bike parking and we have been able to have NWEA become a business member of the BTA. We are very excited about the possibilities and helping to increase bike commuting even more at NWEA.

NWEA's bike commute challenge wall

NWEA’s Bike Commute Challenge wall recognized employee bike commuters.

Adding to the fun of the Bike Commute Challenge, we developed a major bike tour race game that includes jersey competition for overall leaders, weekly stage winners and we recognize those who have a 100% commute rate for the week. We hold weekly stage awards ceremonies and have a BCC Wall of Fame where we post all the award winners.