What most people probably don’t know about Backporch Coffee Roasters in Bend is that co-owner Dave Beach first started roasting his private stash of coffee beans in a popcorn air popper when he was a student at the University of Oregon.
His coffee passion and hobby took this psychology major right out to his back porch in Eugene, where he started experimenting with the art of roasting coffee beans. On his porch, he could take coffee roasting to the next level, roasting on a much bigger scale than in his popcorn air popper. The wafting smell of roasting coffee beans soon drew customers, and that led to him selling his beans to neighbors and fellow students.
While at UO, Beach started taking business classes as well, where he made a presentation describing the type of business he’d like to run someday. Since he was already roasting on his back porch, the new business he dreamed of would be called Backporch Coffee.
“I still have that popcorn air popper in the shop,” says Beach, 28, with a knowing smile. “I can still roast a small sample handful of beans in there.”
The second thing people might be surprised to learn about Beach is the fact that he was mentored by the late Alfred Peet, the original gourmet coffee master (several hundred Peet’s Coffee&Tea shops are still in operation throughout the country).
“Alfred Peet had a trained eye; he could visually inspect coffee (beans) and know if they were roasted correctly,” recalls Beach, a native of Bend who graduated from Mountain View High School. “A lot of people don’t know that Alfred Peet actually consulted for Starbucks when they were first starting out, too.”
Beach didn’t accomplish his dream coffeehouse alone. His wife and business partner, Majell Beach, 27, has been an integral part of making the business work. Majell, also an MVHS graduate, has lived all over the world and holds a dual citizenship in the U.S. and Brazil, due to her father’s nationality.
Majell brings a bright smile to her customers at Backporch, where she shows up for work at 6:15 a.m. after picking up the morning pastries. Dave arrives 15 minutes earlier and fires up the espresso machines.
“Knowing the people of Bend, who are so awesome, is great. We have such a varied clientele, so many different types of people,” says an enthusiastic Majell. “This small business definitely has a community feel, and it’s a very special thing. And can I just shout out we have the best employees, too?”
The Beaches still seem a little shocked that their little 4-year-old west-side coffeehouse has done so well, despite the lackluster economy. It has not only survived, it is thriving, and the Beaches expect to be opening another Backporch Coffee on Century Drive later this month.
“We’re still growing, and we were just running out of space,” Dave explains. “We’ll be roasting at the new location — there’s a lot more space. When I first started (Backporch), I was 23 years old, and we had two employees. Now we have nine employees, and I think I’ve learned to be a better manager.”
The type of business the couple likes to run is exemplified by Majell’s employee-encouragement white board at the shop, where, she explains, “Anyone can write anything good about someone else. At first, I thought everyone would think it’s dorky, but they’re always writing something on it, all the time.”
Though the business takes a large part of their daily life, the Beaches say they enjoy working with each other, and they’ve been true to their marriage by carving out time just for themselves.
“We do date night every single Wednesday,” says Majell with a smile. “We’ve only had one Wednesday when we weren’t able to do that. It’s great growing a business, but if it’s any way an impediment to our marriage, it’s not worth it.”
The final thing you may not know about this business couple is that Dave literally wears his passion on his arm. A tattoo on his upper left arm depicts a colorful coffee bush with coffee cherries on its branches, but the bush is missing several fruits. Those missing tattooed cherries can be found behind Majell’s ears.
Majell smiles and shows off her full arm tattoo of flowers and wood doves, which she explains reminds her of her Christian faith, something they both take seriously.
Majell was once enrolled in seminary and considered becoming a missionary overseas, something that her grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins have done. But after working in soup kitchens in Los Angeles, she realized she could be an example of Christianity no matter where she was located.
“I do have ‘oakish’ roots, and I wanted to have a home and a business,” says Majell, who spent much of her life traveling from country to country.
Life at home
We caught up with the Beaches recently to learn about how they spend time when they’re not roasting or brewing coffee. Their cozy, small house is within biking distance of their coffee shop, but far enough away to give them some chill time, they say (before they bought their home, they had rented a home near Backporch, where they could look out their window and see the shop).
They share their home with a rescue dog, Silas, and their lucky black cat, Tuesday, who adopted the Beaches at their shop on a Tuesday.
Dave finds his relaxation at home by puttering around his backyard garden, where he built a small greenhouse for his tomatoes.
How long have you lived in Central Oregon? Majell: Dave is a born-and-raised “Bendite,” whereas I have lived here for an accumulative 10 years.
What I love about my home is ... How cozy it is.
My favorite room is ... Majell: The “futon room.” It is where I begin and end my days by sitting on the futon with my “son/dog” Silas and read.
My favorite possession is ... If it counts as a possession, it would be our fur-baby, Silas. He is literally like our son.
If I had a Monday off to do anything I wanted to do at home, alone, I’d ... Majell: Catch up on all the domestic chores, then cuddle with Silas on the futon and read with some homemade hot chocolate. Preferably it would be cold and broody outside so I felt justified in my indoor endeavors.Otherwise, I would want to be on a bike ride.
Dave: Make some coffee, watch a movie, head out on a hike with Silas, and if I’m lucky, locals night at Deschutes (Brewery).
Three things you’ll always find in our refrigerator are ... Yogurt, raw milk, tons of veggies and beer.
Are you handy around the house? Majell: That would be Dave’s department, and he is quite intuitive when it comes to figuring out how to fix things.
Have you had a favorite home- improvement project or do-it-yourself adventure? Dave: I went to Portland to visit a buddy who had started a farm and upon my return immediately made my own personal little greenhouse. It has done swimmingly.
Majell: On two different occasions when Dave was out of town, I surprised him by painting an accent wall and an entire room. One time I was so close to the wire that he came home and the paint was still wet.
My favorite piece of artwork in the house is ... Majell: This beautiful print that I had wanted before we got married but never received, and then Dave surprised me with years later.
Dave: An old rustic sign from some lodge that I found one day while doing coffee deliveries.
Do you like to cook? Majell: Love it, especially if I’m not too exhausted.
Dave: I like to cook, but to be honest the prep and cleanup keep me away from cooking.
If so, what do you like to make? Majell: Lots of stir-fry and African-style yams — YUM!
Dave: Fish tacos!
Do you eat out often? Moderately. We love Zydeco, Pizza Mondo and Deschutes Brewery for dinner. Super Burrito, Kebaba and Spork for lunch.
What’s your idea of the perfect get-together at home? Majell: Small group of close friends over with wine, good cheese, chocolate and quality conversation.
Dave: Ditto, but insert beer, too.
What do you usually have for breakfast? Majell: Yogurt with whey protein, fruit and steel-cut oats.
Dave: Toast and a banana.
If you could have a second home anywhere in the world, where would it be? Dave: Central Valley, Costa Rica. I want to have a coffee farm there.
Majell: I don’t like the idea of a second home, but if I had to choose it would probably be in Vermont, where I was born. Just a little cottage in the country to relax and enjoy the beauty in.
What do you do when you have time to relax and recreate in Central Oregon? Hike the trails, go up to the lakes, ride bikes.
Favorite three books/novels you have read? Majell: “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë and “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. “David Copperfield” (is) probably the most well-developed novel I’ve ever read. I have never cried and laughed more in any other work of literature. “Jane Eyre” (is) a story of the most resilient, long-suffering and strong woman ever. So admirable and beautifully written. “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” — I try and read this at least every other year, as it never ceases to humble and stretch me.
Dave: If I could pay attention long enough, I’d read. Until then, I will continue searching online forums for coffee-related write-ups or coffee gadgets.