bison coffee house
Native artwork lines the walls of Loretta Guzman’s Bison Coffee House. House-baked goods fill countertop cases, and historic family photographs shine out from beneath glass. Native-owned coffee company Tribal Grounds is brewed alongside Portland’s Heart Coffee. This, Portland’s only Native-owned coffee shop, is a treasured space. For Guzman it was several years in the making.
A Portland native and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, Guzman self-financed the business through beading, a tribal practice she began learning when she was eight years old. She worked on small and large projects - leggings, capes, and other garments - funneling the income into her business. “I just paid for it as I had the money. It took me two years,” she says.
Family support also helped bring the coffee house to life. Guzman rehabbed a 1926 building owned by her father for the location, but before she could get started she had to get past procedural hiccups. Until the City of Portland annexed it in 1985, the Cully neighborhood was an unincorporated area of Multnomah County. The city had no records of Guzman’s building and no building plans. Guzman tracked down references to the building across multiple agencies. For the floor plans Guzman teamed up with her mother, an accountant, to measure the building and do the calculations before submitting the final plans to the city.
Bison Coffee House opened in November 2014. “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 in and be proud.”
Industry: Food & Beverage
Location: 3941 NE Cully Blvd, Portland OR 97213