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Ryan Willbur and Laila Ghambari Buy Portland’s Guilder and Junior’s Roasted Coffee


The newest Guilder cafe on NE Prescott. Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

Portland, Oregon-area coffee professionals Ryan Willbur and Laila Ghambari have purchased the progressive and influential sibling coffee businesses, Guilder and Junior’s Roasted Coffee.

The married couple plans to maintain existing operations and staff while building upon the vision established by the former Guilder/Junior’s owners, Mike and Caryn Nelson, Toby Roberts and Carrie Lind. The Nelsons launched the roasting company in Florida 10 years ago, then moved to Portland for the creation of the Guilder cafe and roastery at NE 24th and Fremont in Portland in 2017

The acquisition includes Guilder’s second location in the iconic Powell’s City of Books bookstore in downtown Portland, and the Junior’s Coffee cafe at Upright Brewing’s Beer Station on NE Prescott.

“The co-owners and I, we were ready to simplify our lives,” Mike Nelson told DCN. “We see selling to Ryan and Laila as best-case scenario for us. It’s hard to imagine feeling so good about selling — seeing our staff in such great hands.”

Ryan Laila Nelsons

From left to right: Ryan Willbur, Laila Ghambari, Mike Nelson and Caryn Nelson celebrating the deal earlier this week.

Willbur, Ghambari and the Junior’s/Guilder ownership team finalized the deal on Wednesday, April 2024. Willbur declined to detail the financial terms of the purchase, but said he and Ghambari now hold a 100% stake, and that the acquisition was supported by a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan.

“We’ve purchased Guilder and Junior’s Roasted Coffee not because it needs work, but because it does work,” Willbur told DCN. “It’s a wonderful, healthy business living out the values of quality, transparency, and community. For Laila and I, it’s a dream scenario, where we’ve been passed the keys and now we get to see this business into its next phase.”

Willbur enters the new family business after most recently serving as vice president of sales and marketing at commercial coffee equipment supplier Middleby Coffee Solutions Group. After starting in coffee as a barista at the renowned independent shop Lava Java in Ridgefield, Washington, Willbur eventually held numerous roles with coffee companies such as Intelligentsia, Stumptown and La Marzocco USA.


Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

Ghambari, the 2014 United States Barista Champion, has been busy in recent months running her own specialty coffee consulting firm By Laila Ghambari. She previously held numerous high-level positions at Stumptown, including leading training and retail operations.

“I’m ecstatic to say this is our lives now,” Willbur said of the Guilder/Junior’s venture. “I have learned so much from my experience with Middleby, but I am excited to turn my focus to an independent business where I can support and participate in my local community. Laila will continue to consult and provide resources for our industry at large. If anything, we want Guilder and Junior’s to showcase the businesses principles she is championing for others within coffee retail.”


The Junior’s Roasted Coffee 10-kilo Proaster machine. Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

Since their inceptions, Junior’s Roasted Coffee and Guilder have embraced progressive business concepts such as price transparency and supply chain equity. The company launched an unprecedented (in coffee) CSA-style program in 2022, designed to ensure income for coffee farmers. The Nelsons have also spearheaded work towards understanding and meeting coffee production costs. Junior’s went so far as to release a free template that other coffee roasters might use to engage in more sustainable sourcing practices.

“We’re benefitting from the handoff of the template and we’ll continue to use the framework going forward,” Willbur said of the company’s sourcing practices. “We want to continue existing relationships for certain. We hope to continue to grow the business so that we can introduce more relationships into the program.”


Mike Nelson speaking at a cost of production event at Portland’s Buckman Coffee Factory in 2018. Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

Willbur and Ghambari also have not announced any immediate plans to shakeup the Guilder or Junior’s menus, which lean towards lighter plant-based fare with fresh ingredients alongside expertly crafted drinks using Junior’s roasts. The couple also plan to work with the existing Guilder and Junior’s staff as they dive into entrepreneurship.

“Our goal, first and foremost, is to learn this business inside and out,” Willbur said. “We’re doing our best not to make any major moves until we understand all of the ‘whys’ for how things are operating right now.”

In time, the new owners may transition to a single brand name, although nothing is yet set in stone, said Willbur.

“Throughout our careers, Laila and I have been fortunate to have worked for some really great companies where we’ve gained valuable knowledge and perspective,” Willbur said. “In taking this next step as business owners, our goal is to create a culture and environment where we can share that with new and growing coffee professionals.”

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated. The original version incorrectly spelled Ryan Willbur as Ryan Wilbur.]

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