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|Thursday, 29 January, 2015|
Storefront of the Bison Coffeehouse located in Portland. (Lori Edmo-Suppah photo)
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
PORTLAND — Two years in the making the Bison Coffeehouse opened for business on Veteran’s Day 2014 at 3941 NE Cully Blvd in Portland, Oregon.
Shoshone-Bannock tribal member Loretta Guzman owns the business that features espresso, tea and home baked goods including cookies shaped like bison. She features Tribal Grounds coffee from a Native American roaster in North Carolina and Heart coffee that is roasted locally in Portland. Buffalo jerky from Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Enterprises is also available.
She is a daughter of Loretta Seaman and Gary Guzman. Her two sisters are Michelle Guzman and Sunshine Guzman.
Loretta got into the coffee business in 2003 when working for her mentor Kibby Readman while attending school to become a dental lab technician. She got into a car accident during the summer and was diagnosed with cancer. After she was unable to get health insurance in Oregon to cover the treatment, she moved back to Fort Hall and received treatment from the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City. She has been in remission since 2009.
Readman allowed to keep her job at his coffee business while getting cancer treatment and she returned to Portland to finish school. Unfortunately the economy changed and dental labs were no longer in demand. She then studied to be a math teacher but decided to pursue the coffeehouse so she talked her father Gary into letting her use one of his buildings. It took much work and money she invested from her savings. Her father owns a Harley shop next door, along with another building. She also received a $5,000 grant from the Cully Boulevard Association to assist with costs.
Loretta said she wanted the coffeehouse to reflect her Native identity and also serve quality products and service. She visited a lot of coffee shops in Portland to do tasting and look at their setup prior to opening her own.
Heart Coffee provided her with training and equipment. They tested everything to make sure it was right and at times pop in on her business to try the coffee.
The decor reflects her family’s creativity — from geometric designs on the front windows and on a wooden door, Pendleton bison sewn into the upholstery on a wooden bench, a big bison bull named Geronimo hanging on the wall, petroglyphs painted on the walls that tell a story — to each piece of furniture and lights that were purchased one by one that was to Loretta’s liking.
A redone sideboard with drawers sits next to the espresso machine where customers can find sugar, napkins and cream. Her mother Loretta and sister Sunshine redid the wood and painted it with bison.
A wood stove sits in one corner that has a high backed chair next to it with deer hide upholstery. The chairs are also found at the front windows. Four wooden Indians are placed near the wood stove and other parts of the coffeehouse. The artwork includes images of Native people painted on wood and prints of Indians on motorcycles that reflect the Harley shop next door. A medal bison sits high above the front entrance that rusted naturally to the color of a bison.
It’s called Bison Coffeehouse because of a dream Loretta had while recovering from cancer where a big bison kept recurring in it and also because bison are a food source for Native people.
She has three employees and the coffeehouse is open seven days a week – Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She initially stayed open until 7 p.m. but changed after Christmas to be cost efficient. During the summer she plans to adjust her hours later and provide seating outside in front of the shop and in between the motorcycle shop and the coffeehouse.
Both her mother Loretta and father Gary, although divorced, supported their daughter throughout the effort. They expressed their pride in her work. Gary said everything fell into place despite all the licensing and permits she had to endure with the city of Portland. “She did a really good job – you have to pay for everything and it isn’t cheap,” he said. “She was looking to create something different.”
Loretta Guzman said her creativity came from her parents and is appreciative of their support, along with the Cully neighborhood and Native community.
Business is good and she looks forward to welcoming more.
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