One Cafe Can Change the World

The result of having a neighborhood space and a community of bicycle commuters.

This is part 2 of a 2-part story. You can read part 1 HERE.

By Jeremy Martin

CJ Speelman came to the Arbor Lodge hoping to carve out a career path in coffee, and though he enjoyed the atmosphere and community feel of the coffee shop, his long-term goal was to acquire the essential skills and contacts to open his own roasting company. As it turned out Scott Davison, owner of the Arbor Lodge, was able to supply both of those things, incubating Speelman’s talent for roasting while also promising to be his first commercial customer once the new roasting company was formed. Tanager Coffee now supplies the Arbor Lodge with half of the café’s coffee needs while also whole selling beans to other shops and offering smaller amounts for sale via the internet.

Selling community supported agriculture shares as a way to sustain Vocoform's enterprise training labs.
Selling community supported agriculture shares as a way to sustain Vocoform’s enterprise training labs.

œIt was interesting to see how out of a coffee shop we were really able to start creating opportunities in the neighborhood for other people and youths,  Davison said, also mentioning that he and the Arbor Lodge were able to send another former barista to business school so that she could takes classes en route to opening a café of her own.

Of course, it’s not just former employees that Davison would like to help out. Vocoform, a not-for-profit enterprise founded by Davison and his wife, strives to help young adults find rewarding vocations by offering skill and experience building jobs opportunities, many of which are in the local and craft food industries.

DeAndre Williams, Apprentice at Crepe & Berry practicing his management skills.
DeAndre Williams, apprentice at Crepe & Berry practicing his management skills.

For example, an urban farm was created just down the road from the Arbor Lodge, developed to teach neighborhood youth not only how to plant and grow fruits and vegetables, but also the importance of caring for the environment, eating healthy meals, and working collaboratively toward a common goal.

Vocoform has also sponsored the building of a pop-up gourmet pizza stand and a small smoothie and crepe shop, both of which serve handmade, artisan food to the neighborhood.

Participant Brianna and DeAndre opening day at Crepe & Berry.
Participant Brianna and DeAndre opening day at Crepe & Berry.

Though Davison has done quite a bit to bring about culinary-based community activism in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood, he is now setting his sights further afield as Vocoform is creating an initiative to bring 1000 new micro-enterprises into existence by 2020.

œWe’re working on strategic partnerships right now to identify people who are active in major urban areas around the country. We want to identify communities lacking in resources and funding,  Davison said.

Growth happens in the gardens because of youth participants.
Growth happens in the gardens because of youth participants.

But regardless of how far from Portland Vocoform reaches, Davison will always have a place in his heart for the Arbor Lodge neighborhood and the coffee shop he started there. Though he still does a weekly a barista shift behind the bar, he continues to put his and other people’s ideas for civic development in action.

œIt can be dangerous when coffee becomes its own end, but we do coffee because it’s the medium that allows us to do bigger things in the community,  Davison said.



Jeremy Martin

 Jeremy Martin  is a freelance writer and photographer who has reported on coffee, craft beer, college sports, and business for a variety of publications over the past six years.  A veteran of the café industry and graduate of Western Michigan University, Jeremy lives in Seattle where can often be found making sandwiches from whatever is left in the fridge and cracking wise for the amusement of his adoring wife Amanda.

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