The east side of Portland, Oregon is a haven for specialty coffee shops. For coffee enthusiasts, it’s quite the luxury to have your pick of locations within walking distance, but for coffee shop owners the lay of the land looks quite different. Standing out can be tough; making your mark and building a community is even tougher. When it comes to Push X Pull, the neighborhood’s newest cafe, owners Jacob Cowdin and Christopher Hall are looking to carve out a unique space on the 800 block of SE Stark Street. Their focus is simple: serve good coffee and show love to those who enter.
Cowdin and Hall opened Push X Pull in January of 2018. Hall has a background in supply chain, while Cowdin carries design experience as a freelancer for a local advertising agency. The idea of opening the coffee shop sprouted when Hall and his wife were going through a high volume of coffee for their personal consumption. She gave him the idea of roasting his own beans in their living room, barring that he didn’t damage their home. Hall would eventually roast coffee and sell them to friends and locals. One thing led to another and Hall joined forces with Cowdin to make Push X Pull a reality.
When it comes to the space’s design, Cowdin and Hall have leveraged their backgrounds and taken a hands-on approach. Hall, who was born in Michigan, wanted to weave in a “blue collar” theme when it came to color and design, specifically evoking working class Michigan’s mid-century automotive industry. Cowdin, flexing his strength as a creative, brought a blend of a warm and approachable color scheme through wooden accents and the drinkware to the shop aesthetic.
“Jacob and I spent much of our time talking about how we wanted to feel in a space that we were co-creating,” Hall states. “Materials and aesthetics, consumer flow and workflow were all key issues we wanted to address and the intention to highlight the roasting process.”
One of the more unique things about the shop is the assembly of the staff. Most of them have prior coffee experience in Portland, which bodes well when it comes to familiarity in the local marketplace, but they also possess a multi-faceted skillset in fields like photography, art, and web development. “We couldn’t have hoped for a more rad staff. Sweet, perceptive, diligent, and experienced,” Cowdin says.
To match the energy of the aesthetics, Cowdin and Hall brought the heat with the coffee equipment. Their under counter espresso machine from Mavam Espresso is an exact match of that blue tint seen around the shop, paired with Mahlkönig grinders (K30s for espresso, an EK43 for drip), a Wilbur Curtis Company G4 batch brewer and hot water tower, and a small, classy Kalita Wave pour-over option. All the water, filtration, and batch brewer elements were installed by Portland’s own Black Rabbit Service Co. An industrial North coffee roaster anchors the eastern corner of the shop, both working tool of the trade and aesthetic statement piece. If you’re really paying attention, you will notice the Double-Brewer Moccamaster on the top shelf, which was imported from Sweden and is a rarity in the United States. Although their equipment is impressive, the coffee they’re pumping out of it speaks for itself. A couple of early favorites among the offerings include a natural processed Ethiopia Kochere Reko Koba and a honey processed Guatemala Huehuetenango La Cumbre.
Not yet two months in, Push X Pull are trending upwards in Portland, gaining traction and digging themselves in to their own little corner of the neighborhood. The name Push X Pull stems from the vitality of “give and take” in all relationships—they’re building one now with the city of Portland.
Giovanni Fillari is a social media manager and the publisher of @coffeefeedpdx. This is Giovanni Fillari’s first feature for Sprudge Media Network.