Christopher David Experience Design – the Next Generation of the Multi-Use Space

On hot summer days, now a distant memory, the Pearl District’s Jamison Square teems with activity. From miles around, the park’s wading pool attracts parents who bring their kids to cool their toes and survive the heat. Joyful shrieks of children splashing and frolicking in the water echo off the walls of nearby condos and fill the open space.

When autumn arrives, the pace of activity slows. Pedestrians saunter through the square, holding on to the season’s waning moments of sun and warmth. Leaves turn golden, bathing the plaza with amber in the afternoon light. Streetcars rumble past on schedule, the metal of the steel rails screeching under the weight of the wheels. Sharply-dressed women strut by in heels, slowly, to make sure they are seen. Fit, toned joggers in short shorts and tight tees bounce along the boardwalk. Curious kids clamber up the park’s granite bear, testing their bravery as they climb to the top of the statue before leaping off, like chicks taking their first plunge from the nest. Toddlers wobble along the top of the tan stone wall that splits the square, their mothers leisurely following behind, pushing high-dollar strollers with one hand, and holding smartphones to their ear with the other. Benches surrounding the park fill up with friends, neighbors, and nappers.

Amidst this activity, a new café sits on the northwest corner of the square, waiting to be discovered. The name on the door says Christopher David, Interiors | Floral | Café (CDExD). The shop is a unique concept, a multi-use space that combines the diverse interests and talents of its three owners: Chris Giovarelli (whose first and middle names adorn the door), an interior designer, Cosmin Bisorca, a flower and finance specialist, and Kevin Nichols, a former barista at Nuvrei and Water Avenue Coffee, who oversees the coffee side of the business. I stopped in and was able to chat with Nichols, who shared the story behind the company.

First and foremost, CDExD is dedicated to beauty. The company started out as strictly a design firm, founded by Giovarelli in 2012. Looking to grow the business, Giovarelli knew he needed to get his work in front of the public. “Chris wanted a storefront to showcase his design and have it be a place to show the actual work that he does in people’s homes and businesses,” Nichols told me. “In doing that, we saw the opportunity to have a revenue stream from a small café inside the store, as well as the floral area. We decided to put all three of those together to have it work.”

The three-in-one concept adds an interactive vitality to a space that would otherwise be limited to shoppers quietly perusing furniture and other fixtures. “It’s kind of a collision of worlds—the designer meets the barista meets the floral designer. We all came in under one roof to create a beautiful experience.” said Nichols, adding, “There’s not many places you can go where you can buy a bouquet, a latte, and a sofa.”

The Coffee Business

Naturally, I was curious about the coffee side of the business, so I asked Nichols to share his story too. Originally, from the D.C./Northern Virginia area, Nichols came to Portland in 2007. With a degree in geology from the University of South Carolina, Kevin worked in an environmental testing lab, but he found his job unfulfilling (being holed up in a lab all day did not lead to much human interaction). Outside the lab, he discovered for the first time that coffee could taste good. “Coming here, I first noticed all the latte art, and I was just fascinated by it,” he said. Nichols spent a year abroad in London, during which he decided to switch career paths and get into the coffee business. To get a head start on his new life, Nichols took an intensive course at the London School of Coffee that covered a gamut of topics, from roasting to pulling shots to latte art.

Back in the Rose City, Kevin found a barista job at Nuvrei, where was trained by Matt Higgins, Coava Coffee’s owner (at that time, Nuvrei was a Coava wholesale account). From Nuvrei, Nichols moved to Water Avenue Coffee. When he interviewed for the Water Avenue position, Kevin was clear about his ultimate intentions. “I was honest with them,” he said. “I said my dream is to open up my own place. That’s what I want to do in the next couple years.” That was fine with Milletto and Smyth, who look to hire employees with enthusiasm for coffee, even if it causes them to lose them when they leave to do their own thing.

Less than a year later—much sooner than originally planned—Nichols became a partner in the new business. “I was a little daunted about starting my own place, completely on my own,” Nichols said. “Then this came up—not only the opportunity to work with other people, but to work with friends.” When Nichols told Milletto and Smyth he was leaving to start the new business, they encouraged him to go for it and offered their support.

Click here to see a few more photos of the shop.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the café serves Water Avenue Coffee. Nichols says his choice of coffee was an easy one. “I love the company and the coffee” he explained. “I spent close to a year working there and I just fell in love with the product and the people who work there. I wanted to bring their coffee to the Pearl and I wanted to put their coffee in a beautiful place.”

CDExD is the fourth café to have inhabited the Jamison Square location during the five years I have been in Portland, so I asked Nichols how the new business would be successful where others were not. He said the mix of talents and the experience of the owners gave CDExD an advantage. In addition to selling goods and services, the puts on several classes each month, in home decoration, floral arranging, and coffee (Nichols will be teaching a class on how to brew a pourover at home the next one will be Wednesday, October 23, at 7:00pm. Details about the classes can be found on the company website). CDExD does design and flowers for events as well. The diverse offerings are intended to complement each other.

Time will tell how the three-in-one model works as a business, but Christopher David makes a pleasant stop in the north end of the Pearl. Between the furniture, the flowers, and the coffee, the shop is like a little bit of Paris in the heart of the Pearl. It combines the elegance of the Champs-Élysées with elements of third wave coffee, such as the low counter and the open coffee bar, where baristas make drinks in full view of the customers. I might never have a living room as nice as the showroom floor, but I will happily sit at a table and enjoy the setting for the price of un café.

Address: 910 NW 10th, Portland, OR 97209 (map)
Hours: Monday-Saturday 7am-6pm
            Sunday 8am-5pm
Phone: 503-206-8226
Coffee: Water Avenue
Recommendations? Take your drink and sit outside on a sunny afternoon
Wi-Fi? Yes

Os Cafés do Brasil em Portland (Brazilian Coffees in Portland)

After watching Brazil destroy Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup this afternoon (3-0), I thought it would be a good time to give a shout out to Portland’s Brazilian coffee company, Nossa Familia. I stopped by there last week for a visit to the company’s (fairly) new walk-in espresso bar, on Northwest 13th Avenue, across from the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). Last fall, Nossa Familia held a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the new addition, and as promised, the café brings a touch of Brazil to downtown Portland, offering single-family Brazilian coffees and treats like pão de queijo (bite-sized cheese bread).

The shop had two espressos available on grind as well as a couple of different brewed coffee options. I chose an espresso of Ernesto’s Blend. It was very creamy, with a viscous mouthfeel that lingered on the palate, sweet at first, with hints of raisin and almond, and a black tea finish.

For most people, the shop will be an in-and-out stop, as seating is quite limited. Curious customers can sit next to the interior windows and watch what’s happening inside the roastery. When the weather is warm and sunny, a couple of tables on the loading dock make a nice spot to sit and enjoy a Pearl District afternoon.

Address: 811 Northwest 13th, Portland, OR 97209 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7am-4pm
            Saturday: 8am-4pm 
            Sunday: Closed


One more thing…

Not everything at Nossa Familia’s espresso bar was Brazilian. As I was leaving the shop, I picked up something called a Rip Van Wafel, a small snack imported from Holland. After trying it, my question is, how has this not caught on in the US?

Rip van Yum

The Wafel consists of two thin, crispy waffle wafers sandwiched around a very thin layer of caramel. The directions tell you to warm it up by resting it on top of a mug of coffee, to melt the caramel and give it a hint of coffee flavor. Dipping or eating them plain work too, and they are tasty.

Tough to resist

Sterling Coffee moved! (but not too far)

Trader Joe’s decision to expand in Northwest Portland was good news for fans of the quirky supermarket, but the expansion pushed Sterling Coffee out of its space. Fortunately for fans of the coffee kiosk, Adam McGovern and Aric Miller, Sterling’s owners, found a new spot to set up shop. This week, Sterling moved around the corner from its original location into M Bar, a petite public house on Northwest 21st.

M Bar aficionados need not fret. M Bar did not disappear. Rather, the two beverage purveyors are joining forces. The space will be Sterling in the mornings and afternoons, and M Bar in the evenings. Sterling redecorated the bar to reflect its 19th century style. The new location gives customers a place to sit and enjoy—dare I say it?—“sterling” coffee without facing the traffic or the rain*. In a new twist, Sterling’s sharply-dressed baristas serve espressos in shapely snifters that send coffee aromas directly to your olfactory receptors. This is common in barista competitions, but it is the first time I’ve seen it in a café setting. Could coffee cocktails be next? We’ll have to wait and see.

Elegant espresso

Upcoming Event

On Sunday, June 17th, Sterling and M Bar are celebrating their new partnership with a public party billed as “the marriage of Sterling Coffee Roasters & M Bar.” Coffeehouse Northwest will be closed so that all Sterling Coffee family and friends can gather and witness the event. A live band playing Cuban music is scheduled for the reception. The party, open to everyone, runs from 8am-4:30pm.


Location: 417 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR  97210
Hours: 7am-4:30pm Monday-Friday

*just because you dare, doesn’t mean you should

Coffeehouse Northwest

I struck out the other morning for Coffeehouse Northwest (CHNW), one of the leaders in Portland’s single-origin espresso movement. I was confident that I was going to drink some good espresso and learn more about coffee, which is something that I would not have guessed from its appearance. The first time I saw the café, I was walking along Burnside and had just passed a bunch of taverns, so I didn’t give it much credit as a café. I wrote it off as just another Burnside dive. I was grossly mistaken. Fortunately, Brandon Arends corrected me. The people inside Coffeehouse Northwest are very knowledgeable and passionate about their coffee.

You might not realize what's inside

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World Cup Coffee and Tea

After checking out the Sterling kiosk on Glisan, I decided to head toward downtown to find a place to sit and write. I didn’t make it very far. A few blocks down Glisan, I came across World Cup Coffee and Tea. I had been planning to try World Cup coffee, but I thought I would go to their café in Powell’s Books. However, since the opportunity presented itself, I decided to stop and check this one out. It turns out that the store on Glisan is World Cup’s headquarters and main café. The company has its offices and its roasting operation there.

World Cup from the outside

While waiting in line, I read some of the company’s literature and I thought I was at another café for coffee enthusiasts. Having visited many similar places, I expected the people in the café to be knowledgeable about the coffee. I walked up to the counter and asked the barista what their espresso was like. She paused for a second.

“It’s really strong. Have you had espresso before?”

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