Alright, I'll be honest: Steel Bridge Coffee is more of a “me” than an “us.” My name is Joseph and I started the sole-proprietorship of Steel Bridge Coffee this fall, roasting coffee from my residence in the Edgewater Neighborhood of West Salem. I want to be your source for excellent fresh-roasted coffee beans.
A bit about me. I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California, a place where “California strawberries” actually taste delicious and where orchards of peaches, plums, and nectarines grow against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In 2001 I went from fruit basket to the bread basket and attended a college that sprouted up from the prairie of central Kansas. After graduating with a couple of marginally useful degrees I moved to my grandparents' home for the summer, working on a California farm of almonds, corn, carrots and cotton in the south valley, before opportunity knocked in Oregon.
Whilst working the fields in California that summer I would often hear train horns in the distance, the hum on the tracks would grow slowly louder and I'd pause wistfully as an Amtrak passenger train sped steadily by, disappearing into the northern horizon. Oh to be freed of my shovel and carried off by that steadily chugging machine away from the oppressive heat! Freed to a green place where the summers are mild and the landscape wild! To a place where you don't have to drain your rivers to irrigate your crops; a place where grapes are for wine not for raisins! To a place where beautiful people socialize in dimly lit cafes over espresso and talk about changing the world, or order their beer amidst laughter according to calculations of hop-profile and distance to brewery.
“Gonna buy me a ticket,” I said, “to the end of the line.”
I moved to Salem, Oregon in August of 2005 and didn't look back. I bought my first road bike and began exploring the Willamette countryside. I backpacked around the Three Sisters and dashed around on the sand of Pacific City. I acquainted myself with the northwest cafe culture and eventually developed an affinity for northwest beer.
Without a career in mind, I made my primary focus on living well and living sustainably. In time bicycle commuting became my norm and I was never happier. Next came waste reduction, organic gardening, chicken tending, and some other things that I won't bore you with.
In paid employment I've enjoyed focusing on youth and children and building holistic community values. I worked with ESL students at West Salem High for a year and then was on staff at the county juvenile detention hall for a year and half. Most recently I devoted three years to coordinating the Southeast Keizer Community Center and leading the youth ministry program at Salem Mennonite Church.
I'm excited now to go to work for myself and try to fill a small niche in Salem and Keizer. And I want Steel Bridge Coffee to be evocative of the best things Oregon has to offer. In 2008 I went on a 700 mile bicycle tour in Oregon that covered an amazing variety of landscapes: the Willamette Valley, the Cascade Mountains, the High Desert, the Ochoco Forest, the Columbia River Gorge, the Coastal Range and the Coast. We are in a wonderful and diverse place; and we are a diverse people. We are loggers and sawyers, we are ranchers and farmers, we are hipsters and hippies, we are fishermen and hunters, we are computer geeks and athletes, we are bridge-builders and we are bridge-builders, we are professors and bureaucrats, we are Beavers and Ducks, and so many things in between.
A former co-worker once told me, “You ride a bike and I drive a truck, but we're both trying to get to the same place.”
That's the right spirit and that's the spirit that I bring to Steel Bridge Coffee. Your coffee will always come to your door on a bike but whether you drive, ride or walk you can appreciate the difference that fresh roasted coffee makes and, more importantly, we can work together to build a beautiful, vibrant, diverse, holistic community in Salem, Oregon.