After years of working in cafes, bars and roasteries around the Pacific Northwest, Duane Sorenson had designs on opening the type of cafe he wanted to frequent–a place where quality reigned, where beans were meticulously sourced, intentionally roasted and carefully brewed to bring out the life and unique flavor profile of each coffee.
Once he made up his mind, he made some calls and finally found exactly what he was looking for–a 1920s era, cast-iron, 5 kilo Probat roaster. Espresso-fueled, he drove all night to reach Calistoga, California and promptly offered the gentleman seller the contents of his savings account.
Back in Portland, he worked two jobs to fund the space he began building out on Division. He then reached out to the charismatic Don Younger, beloved tavern keeper and owner of Horse Brass pub, where Sorenson tended bar nightly to save up for his espresso bar and roastery. After a particular night of hard work, followed by hard drinking, Younger handed him a wad of cash to borrow for the last installment to make Stumptown a reality–his first (of what would be many) La Marzocco espresso machine.
In November of 1999, Duane Sorenson opened Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Southeast Division, the name a nod to this beloved city’s historic logging legacy. In between roasting, traveling to source and pulling shots of espresso, Duane began delivering coffee to wholesale customers out of his Ford Pinto wagon–the first Stumptown “Delivery” vehicle. He quickly became known for his inexhaustible passion for exceptional coffee, and what became a concept of sourcing, roasting and brewing that would change the coffee industry completely. Sorenson’s plan was a bold one: find the best beans in the world—scouring the planet if need be—pay a living wage to the farmers who harvest them, and raise the level of discourse and expectations that surround a cup of coffee.
Over the next several years of traveling on the ground for six months out of the year to coffee farms around the world, Stumptown began to develop relationships with coffee producers that evolved into our Direct Trade program–improving coffee quality through our relationships at origin, and in turn, offering incentive based rewards to the farmer, with complete financial transparency of the supply chain along the way. This concept has allowed Stumptown to not only source the best coffee grown in the world, but to also make financial and incrementally sustainable improvements in the growing communities. Pretty simple concept: offer the best prices and expect the best quality in return. It’s worked pretty well so far.
We’ve since opened four cafes and an Annex in Portland, two cafes and a roastery in Seattle, and in 2009 heeded the call on the East Coast, opening a New York roastery in Red Hook and cafe in Manhattan. Plans for a new roastery and espresso bar in California are well underway.
In 2011, bottled cold brew hit the shelves in our cafes and by the following summer, cold brew bottles were tucked into backpacks for camping trips and surfing expeditions along both coasts (not to mention music festivals like Coachella, SXSW, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza). In August of 2012, Stumptown unveiled a new 37,000 square foot headquarters and roastery on the Portland waterfront, a much-welcomed new home for our entire staff. And yet, even now, that first Probat roaster is still in use, a nod to our past, and a reminder of our fastidious approach to sourcing, quality control, and respect for all people involved in the craft of growing, picking, roasting and serving coffee, the same approach that has gotten us where we are today.