Here in Portland, home to the Trail Blazers, one of the city’s own has just unveiled his newest creation. Owner of Deadstock Coffee, one of the most influential coffee shops in the country, Ian Williams officially opened Concourse Coffee in early January of 2022. The 1,300-square-foot space in Northeast Portland is nearly three times the size of Deadstock Coffee. While significantly bigger, the former Nike Footwear Developer seized the opportunity to maximize every inch of the new space.
Concourse is located on NE Couch Street, across the Willamette River from Deadstock’s original location, and it offers a fresh canvas, something new to mold. While being known as the group who consistently plugged the streets with culture at Deadstock, Williams felt like consumers kept them in that box. Concourse is the perfect opportunity for Williams and his team to show the world they have a wider range, and it started with the name of the shop.
“When I first walked into the space, I knew it was meant to be something else,” Williams tells me. “The true definition of Deadstock is something rare; something you hold onto. Naming this place something different was important.”
Taking inspiration from Portland’s historic (Veterans) Memorial Coliseum, Concourse Coffee plays up a literal connection between the community and the moments that mean most to the city. The Coliseum was home to the Portland Trail Blazers for over 20 years, including their 1977 NBA championship year. The name “Concourse” is a nod to the area fans strolled around before the game started in the arena. From fictional banners to Blazers’ mugs, and even a scoreboard, Concourse embodies basketball culture. Their philosophy is to be a place that provides the hype you need before you go to your next destination.
Unlike Deadstock, which is tiny, Concourse feels like a ready-made hang-out lounge, a meeting area so compelling you might not never make it to your next spot. “It’s important to have a community table, especially in a larger space. We ultimately want to create a space that encourages people to safely congregate,” Williams says.
These days Williams stays in motion back and forth between his two coffee bars, which means he threw the alley-oop to his nephew, Noori Cherry, to run the show at Concourse. After getting a masterclass on how to run a shop while working at Deadstock, Cherry has quickly caught stride while running point at Concourse as the Cafe Manager. From training new employees to managerial duties, Cherry is tasked with moving the shop forward from a coffee perspective, all while fostering the same environment customers are accustomed to with Deadstock. While the identity of Concourse is different, the atmosphere has successfully extended across the river from Deadstock.
“You can make a great cup of coffee,” Cherry says, “but are you making them feel comfortable enough to want to stay?” It’s a small question with big meaning, and something that informs Cherry’s work running Concourse each day, and his direction and leadership at the space is strongly present. Cherry has put a particular emphasis on leading with a strong coffee program, while providing an inclusive space for everyone who steps foot on the hardwood—literally. Concourse’s design elements make extensive use of a piece of basketball court floor originally used by 2016 WNBA Champion LA Sparks.
Under Cherry’s direction, Concourse is flexing a coffee muscle that speaks to growth and innovation within the wider work of Deadstock. The star of the show on bar is the Synesso S200 two-group espresso machine. Synesso has partnered with the group at both locations and have been a key contributor on the floor. The Concourse team is breaking down their beans using the Mahlkönig E80 Supreme grinder and getting an assist from the Puqpress Auto-Tamper to lob up their espresso drinks. With more room in the paint, the team has a Chemex on bar for pour-overs, along with Fellow’s Stagg EKG Electric Kettle. Most importantly, they were able to maintain the tap system that was previously installed in the building, giving them the ability to provide their iced drinks on tap. From their signature beverages, like the “LeBronald Palmer,” to some innovative tea drinks, the tap will be flowing year-round.
“There’s a newfound pressure with the new space, but we always rise to the occasion,” Cherry states with confidence, and you can feel it inside the cafe. The original idea behind Concourse was to create connection for people in-between destinations, but the people have a say in what a coffee shop means to them. Only open a few short weeks, Concourse has quickly has quickly become a new sort of cultural hub, a place to see others, spread out, take a meeting, and drink great coffee. It’s a place all kinds of Portlanders want to be associated with, and you see it in the daily gathering of people inside Concourse.
In terms of Portland coffee, Deadstock already has their names in the rafters. But with Concourse, you can’t help but wonder, how many rings will these guys win? Not two… not three… not four… not five…
Giovanni Fillari is Brand Marketing Specialist at Nike and the publisher of @coffeefeedpdx. He is the honorable mention Sprudgie Award recipient for Social Media in 2018 and 2021. Read more Giovanni Fillari for Sprudge.