PORTLAND, Maine — The opening of a coffee shop doesn’t usually draw crowds. But on Monday afternoon, 65 business owners, city officials and State House brass turned out in droves to celebrate Coffee By Design’s fourth Portland cafe in East Bayside.
“Thirty-seven years ago, I never would have imagined this type of business here,” said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, telling the assembled guests that he worked in the former industrial zone decades ago. “This is a significant development for the city. It puts East Bayside on the map.”
Coffee By Design owners Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann have a knack for picking neighborhoods.
When the couple moved to Portland from Seattle with a “passion, a dream, a commitment to the arts,” they settled in what was then the porno district, now called the arts district, said Spear, a Maine native. “Twenty years later, after a series of steps, we are filling another dream.”
That dream is wrapped up in the sprawling 45,000-square-foot building they purchased on Diamond Street. They’ve turned it into company headquarters with an expanded roastery. Occupying little more than half the space, the company with 55 employees expects to grow along with its prosperous wholesale business.
Joining a burgeoning network of coffee companies, breweries and the Urban Farm Fermentory, Coffee By Design further cements the area’s reputation as “ Yeast Bayside, ” though it could morph into East Brewside.
“It shows that Portland continues to thrive. It was not the most desirable place before,” said Brennan. “Now it’s become the hot place to be.”
Business owners such as Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, who co-owns Bayside Bowl, say the cafe will become a hub for entrepreneurs looking to set up shop here.
Alfond, who said he keeps a bag of Coffee By Design’s Black Thunder in his office at the State House, told Spear and Lindemann they are “raising the bar and doing something even more remarkable. You are becoming an anchor and fixture in Bayside.”
Businesses that took a gamble on the neighborhood feel validated.
“It’s fantastic to have them here,” said Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing Co., which opened across the street in 2012. “The neighborhood is transforming itself.”
Coffee By Design’s anchor cafe, which Spear calls “a playground for coffee” will surely be another draw. Lined with the latest coffee gadgets and brewing machines, from custom brewing to steaming techniques, it officially opens Tuesday.