One night last winter, I was heading through de Pijp, a neighborhood in Amsterdam. The area is best known for the Albert Cuyp Market, a humongous outdoor smörgåsbord of commerce where you can find everything from tulips to fish to cheap digital cameras. As a group of workers and a few stray seagulls were cleaning things up for the night, what to my wandering eyes should appear but a familiar name….
The words were on a simple, black sign hanging over a doorway to what looked like a fancy bistro. No one had been near the place in days, if not weeks. It was shut up tight. Being from Portland, I’ve been a fan of this small chain of coffeeshops and roasters for years. Along with many another NW coffee junkie, I lamented the news that hit last May. Stumptown had been all but sold to a meddlesome investment group from New York City. Queue the sneering catch-phrase from those old Pace Picante ads. “NEW YORK CITY?!!!”
But what was a Stumptown doing in Amsterdam, thousands of miles from the nearest location?
I wouldn’t find out the answer until a few months later. During my period of exile back in Portland this past spring, I found myself chatting with a barista at the shop on SE Belmont. Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson had apparently been using the Netherlands as a stopping point while on his periodic business trips to coffee bean operations in Africa. For one reason or another, he gathered together a group of seven employees in May of 2010 for an overseas sojourn.
She had been among the chosen few. Sorenson rented out a space near the market to help spread the good Stumptown word to Europe while also using it as an occasional crash pad. It was only intended to be a temporary “pop up shop.” The place closed down after a few months.
And it’s a damn shame. Since I relocated to the Netherlands last month, I’ve found myself hankering for a cup of Stumptown’s French Press, regardless of Sorenson’s decision to “sell out.” While the Dutch consider their coffee to be the finest in the world, I haven’t developed a taste for the stuff. It’s too bitter and strong enough to strip the orange tint off Snooki.
If you’re ever looking for a Portland expat to manage a franchise here in the Netherlands, Duane, give me a holler.