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Mr. Green Beans DIY Coffee Roasting & More Opens on Mississippi Avenue

July 28, 2010 1 comment
Over 15 Varieties of Green Coffee Beans

Over 15 varieties of green coffee beans

Between the deep recession and Portland’s native artisan culture, the DIY (‘do it yourself’) movement has seen explosive growth here. Mississippi Avenue in North Portland is quickly becoming an epicenter for this growing movement with many local businesses focused on providing resources and tools for Portlanders to take charge and do things themeselves.

Up the street from The ReBuilding Center and Pistols Nursery, and around the corner from SewPo, the newly opened Mr. Green Beans hopes to become a headquarters for do-it-yourselfers interested in everything from roasting their own coffee beans to making their own cheese, soap and more.

Read more…

Sunday Parkways in Portland

August 14, 2009 1 comment
Sunday Parkways Aug 16

Sunday Parkways Aug 16

I’ve lived in Portland for seventeen years, and of all the events, activities and festivals I’ve attended in the city, one of my absolute favorite is Sunday Parkways. The event is extraordinarily simple: several miles of urban roads are closed to cars and become the playground for bikes, pedestrians, strollers, roller bladers, unicyclists, anything BUT motorized vehicles.  This year the Portland Office of Transportation in conjunction with ORBike and Metro have set three Sunday Parkways in three different neighborhoods of Portland. I missed the first one on June 21st in North Portland (and am now kicking myself for missing it), but did manage to attend the one on July 19th in North East Portland and it was exceptional.

In addition to over 7 miles of closed streets the Sunday Parkways also features mini park fests along the way with food, entertainment, activities and free bike servicing.  The third and final Sunday Parkways of the year takes place in Southeast Portland on Sunday August 16th from 9am to 4pm.  Unlike other cycling events in Portland (like Providence Bridge Pedal) the Sunday Parkways event is completely free.

The Southeast route is by far the best of the three parkways with a 9 mile closed course which includes a “5 mile relatively flat loop through portions of the Buckman, Kerns, Laurelhurst, Richmond, Sunnyside neighborhoods.” and it connects to a ” second, more challenging, 4-mile Mt Tabor loop will be optional to summit the only volcano in the City limits. The route will also cross the SE Hawthorne, Division and Belmont business areas”

There is not start or finish spot for the event. You can join in at any intersection and loop in either direction.  A detailed map of the Southeast Sunday Parkways can be found here. There’s also a complete breakdown of all the vendors and events at each Sunday Parkways park (the main park stops are: Laurelhurst Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Colonel Summers Park and Sunny Side Park).  The Southeast Sunday Parkway also intersects the Hawthorne Street Fair creating one of the most unbeatable combinations of events I’ve seen in Portland.

Not only is this event free, it features a ton of goods and services which are offered free, including:  Bike Empowered complimentary bike safety checks and repairs, BTA/Safe Route To Schools kids bike fitting and training  (both at Colonel Summers Park), REI free climbing Wall and Portland Wheelman flat tire repair classes (at Laurelhurst Park).

I’m hard pressed to come up with a better example of an event that illustrates why Portland is such an amazing city, it’s absolutely not to be missed. So do yourself a favor and make your way on Sunday to this amazing event.

For more information on Sunday Parkways:

SoupCycle – Local Organic Soups Delivered

Jed Unloads The Soup

Jed Unloads The Soup

I’ve seen a ton of great business ideas come and go.  Some of them were ahead of their time, others were great ideas poorly executed. Most often though, great ideas go down in burning flames because people aren’t patient enough to let their ideas blossom and grow. They want to get from small to huge in a blink of an eye.

SoupCycle is a fantastic example of a great business, based on a fantastic idea that is getting the time and space it needs to really grow. The entire SoupCycle company is comprised of just three people. (Pretty mind blowing when you hear other local start ups like Forkfly have 16 employees!) Owners Jed and Shauna handle every aspect of the business from soup to nuts (quite literally) with some help from one other part time delivery person. The impact of this is a business whose owners are extremely in touch with the actual business and its customers. For example, as part of SoupCycle’s regular weekly email to their customers,  there is a request for feedback on each week’s soup. SoupCycle makes changes to their line-up based directly on that feedback.

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

The SoupCycle service is a pretty simple concept.  Every week SoupCycle delivers a container of soup, a box of salad and some bread. If you’ve got a bigger family they deliver two containers of soup, and two boxes of salad.  One of the things that sets them apart from other food delivery options is that they deliver this soup entirely by bicycle.  SoupCycle ‘s soup selections are entirely based on ‘what’s in season locally’ and their bread is baked at a small local bakery (Little T American Baker).

For my first SoupCycle delivery I was greeted by owner Jed Lazar and handed two quarts of Potato Kale soup (the vegan option) along with four big slices of french baguette and two boxes of salad.  Jed rides a recumbent bike with an electric assist. By the time he delivered our soup he had already clocked an impressive sixteen miles.

The soup is delivered cold and SoupCycle recommends you put out a cooler if you expect to be away for more than three hours during their delivery days. Many people get the soup delivered to their office so they can take it home from there.

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

The evening of our first delivery we heated up the Potato Kale soup and had dinner in moments.  The two quarts of soup easily fed my family of five (two adults and three children) with about one serving of soup left for leftovers. The Potato Kale soup was delicious, well spiced, perfectly cooked and brimming with flavor.

I had heard a lot about SoupCycle’s salad dressing (which is also impressively vegan) and so was eager to see if it lived up to the hype. It does. The salad is a nice mix of fresh greens, shredded carrot and cranberries but elevates to something entirely amazing with the dressing. With SoupCycle’s soup being so good it’s hard to say that you should try their service out just for the salad dressing, but it is THAT good.  The bread from Little T was soft and flavorful and I recommend you try dipping it in the dressing!

SoupCycle offers three different options for their soups: vegan, vegetarian and an option with meat.  Jed indicated that their most popular selection is vegetarian even among people who eat meat.

Here’s an example of two weeks of their selections:

The Cumin Chihuahua (vegan)
A flavorful cumin-infused tortilla and corn soup.

Cream of Spinach (veggie)
Your mouth will approve of this tasty soup that’s full of nutrients. Made with coconut milk.

Chicken Noodle (meaty)
One of the best chicken noodle soups you’ll ever taste. Savory chicken, wide noodles, plenty of celery and carrots and just the right spice.

French Lentil (vegan)
Hearty lentil soup with flavorful vegetables, the distinctive taste of red wine vinegar and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Who Framed Ginger Rabbit (veggie)
Sweet and savory carrot soup with a strong punch of ginger.

Clam Chowda’ (meaty)
A creamy clam chowder so tasty you’ll think you’re dining in New England.

To order SoupCycle, you sign up for a SoupScription on SoupCycle’s site which sets you up for a weekly delivery of the soup style of your choice.  SoupCycle bills you the Wednesday of your delivery and you can make changes to the following week’s delivery (vacation hold, adding or dropping your level of soup or going a la cart without salad and bread) by Friday at midnight.  SoupCycle soupscriptions start at  $18 for 1 quart of soup + bread and salad (which serves 2 people) and goes all the way up to dinner for 6.

The soup, salad and bread for 4 at $30 ended up feeding 5 of us for a net cost of $6 per person for fresh, local and organic soup delivered.  A pretty affordable option for such a tasty meal.

I knew I liked the concept of SoupCycle but I’m frankly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the whole SoupCycle experience.  It’s refreshing to deal with a company so committed to its customers with such a high quality product.  SoupCycle’s soups are just plain fantastic and when you combine that with their truly exceptional salad dressing you’ve got a combination that just can’t lose. I highly recommend SoupCycle!

For more information on SoupCycle:

SoupCycle Interview

Soupcycle Delivers

Soupcycle Delivers

One of the things I love about Portland is the way people follow their passion. Portland isn’t just a town of great ideas, it’s a place where people put their ideas into motion. One such great idea is SoupCycle which serves fresh, organic and locally made soups by bicycle.  I was so intruged by this business I decided to talk to one of the companies founders Jed Lazar about SoupCycle (a full review of the service with pics will come soon).

How did you get the idea for Soup Cycle?
We heard about someone in Texas who tried to deliver soup by bicycle. He made it work for a while, but eventually switched to delivering by truck. To Shauna and I – this was the perfect challenge. We knew it could be done and wanted to prove that bicycles are a feasible form of cargo transportation within cities.

Why Soup?
Because it’s perfect! There are great, tasty soups for every season of the year that use local vegetables.

Why Portland? Does SoupCycle fit Portland better than other cities?
Definitely. This city values healthy foods and healthy lifestyles. We all want to eat scrumptious foods that are good for us, but who has time to put together healthy meals every day? SoupCycle is a Soupscription- it’s one healthy meal a week that our customers don’t have to worry about. Plus, the city’s bicycle network makes bicycle-delivery possible.

How does the expense of a Soupscription compare to other dinner options people can order?
A Soupscription is almost always less than going out to a restaurant, and a lot of times it’s less than cooking for yourself. When you make a recipe at home you typically have to buy a lot of new ingredients. If you’re like me, you go to the store to shop for dinner and end up spending way more than you meant to. Our soups are $9 for two full servings, or $18 for soup, rustic bread and fresh salad for two people. And that’s for organic foods made with local ingredients and delivered by bicycle to you! It doesn’t get better than that. Our prices are low because we don’t rent an expensive retail space. We just do deliveries, and that keeps our costs down.

How far in advance do you determine what soups you are going to make?
Two weeks in advance.

Do your customers ever submit soup recipes?
They do! I’ve got a great recipe for hearty chicken and potato soup I’ve been meaning to make that a customer sent me recently.

What’s your favorite soup? Why?
My favorite soup is The Democratic Republic of Peanut Chicken. It’s an African peanut chicken stew that’s hearty beyond belief and full of tasty goodness.

What’s been the biggest challenge for SoupCycle so far?
We’ve been working for a while on a project to switch the containers we use. Right now, we’re using recyclable plastic containers, but we’d really like to be using more durable containers that we can reclaim from customers each week, wash and reuse. We’ve had some difficulty finding a good solution that meets all our needs, but we haven’t given up yet.

Has there been a moment that’s made you feel that all the hard work is all completely worth it?
Honestly, I feel like that most of the time. This is a great city to own a small business. People bike by us on the Hawthorne Bridge and tell us they like what we’re doing. Our customers love the soups, and it makes my day when I get an emails like the one I got last week: “We love the soup! My family always looks forward to Tuesdays”. A few weeks ago made our 3,000th bicycle-soup delivery and we feel really good about that. Yep, it’s a lot of work to own a small business, but there have been plenty of rewards.

Right now you deliver Soup, Salad and Bread. Any plans to deliver other kinds of products along with the soup?
We may eventually. We love to hear recommendations from your readers.

Where do you get your ingredients from?
We get most of our ingredients from Ladybug through Organically Grown Company.

How many people do you currently have delivering soup?
Just myself and our delivery Souper Hero Jen.

What kind of bikes do you use?
I’ve got a recumbent with an electrical assist.   Jen uses a regular upright bicycle.

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SoupCycle delivers locally made organic soups on a weekly basis starting at $18 (including fresh bread and salad). They offer vegan, vegetarian and meated options all delivered by bike!

More info on SoupCycle:

Ecomotion's Fire Sale – Would You Buy an Electric Car for $1210?

April 9, 2009 3 comments
Zap Xebra PK Electric Car

Zap Xebra PK Electric Car

I’ve always fancied the idea of owning an electric car.  The idea of not ever having to fuel up at a gas station has always appealed to me. So when I saw that Ecomotion on NE Sandy Blvd. was running a going out of business fire sale I just HAD to check it out.

Ecomotion specializes in cars from Zap motors. They basically carry two cars, the Zap Xebra PK (a ‘pick up’)  and the Zap Xebra Sedan. Both of these cars are manufactured in China and are completely electric.

As I browsed through their selection of cars, the service director Al Ham set my expectations:  “Before you get into this car you need to vastly lower your expectations. If you’re looking for a Toyota, go buy a friggin Toyota. What these are, are Chinese cars made from the cheapest parts they can get away with and the quality level on them so low they vary wildly from car to car.” With those words in my head I gave the first of many Zap cars a spin.

The thing I noticed immediately was how much attention I got driving the car. I drove a big loop from the Ecomotion building to the traffic circle at NE 39th and back. Heads turned and people pointed, and at first driving it was a little bit of a thrill. But with each successive car I tried out I realized that they all had the same thing in common – they were all truly cheap crappy cars.

The story would have ended there, but the cars are a devil’s bargain.  A new 2006 model Zap Xebra PK sells there at $2,999.  Almost 10K off its initial list price.  You get a $1,500 Oregon energy tax credit and a $290 Federal Tax credit, bringing the cost (before license and fees) to $1209! Less cost than some configurations of a MacBook Pro! As I did the math on this over and over, I decided to give the car another spin.  How can you pass up a deal this good?

Upon my return Al gave me a ‘you again’ look and told me firmly, “at this price, you’re either going to buy it or not. I don’t get paid enough to actually sell these cars.” After handing me the key of another Zap Xebra PK and the dealer plate I was off.  With this second round I tested out four separate Zap cars, and even though I willed myself to try to like the car, I just couldn’t. Each one rattled, shook, and barely stopped. I never was able to get any of the cars past 35 mph and at least half struggled to get upa modest hill. At six feet I had to drive the ‘car’ with two feet as the steering column was so close to the seat I couldn’t move my foot from the gas to the brake.

Ultimately I decided that even at the ‘they’re practically giving them away’ price the Zap wasn’t for me.  I do hope someday to find a car that doesn’t burn gas, find a better more ecological way of getting around town, unfortunately that reality just isn’t there yet.

After making my decision, I realized my first test drive got caught on this news report from KATU news:

Here are some helpful links in case you want to tale the plunge:

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