In a city as teeming with micro-roasters as Portland, Ore., it may take any number of strategies to make a name for oneself — popup shops, wholesale relationships at multiroaster cafés and beer collaborations being just a few on top of straightforward differentiation based on quality.
All of these strategies have been employed by one of Portland’s newest commercial coffee ventures, Clutch Coffee Roasters. Yet for the bootstrapping young company, there is one more unfolding, which, while potentially less fashionable, is just as potentially more productive: local community support.
Founded less than a year ago by roaster Dave Schwanke, Clutch recently announced the donation of more than 320 pounds to coffee to Transition Projects, a local nonprofit that provides programs and services to people working to make the transition from homelessness to housing. While 320 pounds is a modest amount — especially given the gargantuan efforts of its recipient organization — it nonetheless represents approximately $4,500 in retail value, a significant number for both the fledgling roaster and the nonprofit.
“Out of all of the societal issues and worthy causes in the Portland area, homelessness is one that I feel we have a moral obligation to prioritize at or near the top of the list,” Schwanke said, adding that donations were made periodically throughout the year, when roasted coffees would go unsold for a period longer than Clutch’s own QC standards could tolerate.
Schwanke jokingly says the donation was in part because of his imperfect inventory management skills, although he’s also a volunteer at Transition’s Clark Center, a 90-bed short-term men’s residential facility, making for a natural partnership.
“My threshold is currently four weeks. Many coffees still taste okay at four weeks but they typically have lost the sparkle that makes them special by then, if not before then,” Schwanke told Daily Coffee News.
Schwanke said that while he hopes his inventory management skills improve, he also hopes to continue assisting Transitions in any way he can. The Transitions partnership follows Clutch’s other private label partnerships, roasting and packaging fundraising coffees for local community-based organizations such as Hatch Innovation and the Oregon Humane Society.
“The work Transition Projects does is of utmost importance, not only to the city of Portland but to every person living here and in the metro area,” Schwanke told Daily Coffee News. “Providing coffee to the residential programs may seem like a small, simple thing, but it goes a long way in helping somebody who is working hard to overcome homelessness.”