Bison Coffeehouse is Portland’s only Native-owned coffee establishment and is the culmination of a journey that Loretta Guzman embarked on almost a decade ago. After a bout with cancer that almost proved fatal, Loretta envisioned a community space that represented her ancestry and provided an opportunity to showcase Native-sourced products.
Taking several years, Loretta slowly raised funds through the tribal art of beading, a craft she learned as a young girl. Working on apparel projects, large and small, she was finally able to launch her vision in November 2014, rehabbing a 1926 building her father, Gary Guzman, had used as a storage facility for his acclaimed custom motorcycle shop next door.
Bison Coffeehouse is a family affair through and through. Gary, who recently passed away, was instrumental in helping Loretta realize her vision. Her mother serves as business accountant, her niece and brother are baristas, and her daughter manages the shop.
Loretta supports local native artisans as well as those outside the region. Artwork gifted or picked up along the Powwow Trail graces Bison Coffeehouse walls. The coffeehouse also features live events such as poetry readings, music, fundraisers and campaigns.
Loretta works directly with three other native-owned coffee roasters: Native Coffee Traders in New York, Star Village in Nevada and Spirit Mountain Roasting on the border of California/Arizona. Loretta uses her knowledge of coffee and her customers to actively collaborate with the roasters to help them market and develop new blends. Every vendor’s product is carefully evaluated for its standard of quality and commitment to excellence.
These Native roasters manage small farms that produce organic beans and they don’t outsource their roasting. Timely delivery ensures freshness and every detail is considered to ensure top-notch quality. Each roaster takes deep pride in the roast they create, bringing the best they can to market because it’s often their only source of income and one that must sustain their entire family. This dedication breeds a standard of excellence that is evident in each and every cup.
By working with these roasters, Bison Coffeehouse supports local economies and fosters growth in their Native communities. Every effort is taken to assure that money goes directly to the roasters.
Bison Coffeehouse is deeply committed to giving back to the Native community. In reflecting on her original inspiration, Loretta feels a deep connection to being of service to the Native people in fostering a sense of pride. “In my creation, I wanted a place for Natives to come,” Guzman says. “I wanted to create a positive environment, something they identify with—a place where they can come and be proud.”