From Pacific Northwest correspondent, Todd Marella
Sigh…we are… individually, collectively, globally, going crazy. Mad. Bonkers. Nuts. Alas, we’ve all read the accounts of how important the joy in the little things, and the seeking them out truly is. A photograph, a scent, a song…little things often taken for granted, but really powerful, if we let them be. 'Let’s go crazy' is as much a celebration of the human spirit and a record to dance to, as it is a protest anthem, its inspiration rooted in the Notting Hill riots of May, ’76. London was a rolling boil of soaring unemployment, racial injustice, and social unrest. People were going crazy and things erupted during the carnival.
Last Friday, feeing it, all of what’s been happening in Portland, its clampdown of late, and with a mission in mind to quell my inner personal riot, I left work and headed southwest on 99 out to Newberg. My GPS told me an hour to 101 E. 1st St., and an hour it was. There are better routes from the Pearl District to Newberg, particularly if you’re on two wheels, but Hwy 99 got me there. Where was I going? To the grand opening of the See See Motorcoffee shop at the west end of the main drag through downtown Newberg, OR. Why sit in traffic on a Friday afternoon? Because Thor Drake’s first moto coffee shop makes me smile every time I walk in, and that’s been true for 10 years. And, I was curious. My XS650 has long expired registration tags, and hates sitting idle in the heat, or I’d have been taking off my helmet upon arrival, but instead just hearing the chirp as I locked the Mazda.
The space is nestled in the back of a corner lot, with enough parking on two sides for all the bikes, cars, and haulers to comfortably convene. Ray Gordon was there when I arrived, as was evident by the presence of his ’51 Chevy golden gasser. It was flanked by a beautiful crustacean colored ’56 Buick Special. Ray was on his way out, with kids in tow, as I was walking in. Always good to see him.
The shop seems simultaneously brand new, and a long-standing neighborhood joint, familiar, and welcoming, fresh and visually inviting. Thor’s touch is evident throughout the space, both in and outside. The guy’s vision and sense of graphic representation and design encourage the visitors to see, smell, taste, touch, and hear all aspects of the shop…except the bikes. Please don’t touch them. They are cool, and seductive, but also the fruits of other’s labors.
As good as the coffee always is at See See, the staff are better. Cheery, eager, and helpful as usual, they welcomed me in more of a 'Hey Todd, good to see you' manner, than 'Welcome to our grand opening'. I like it like that. I was introduced to Connor, the store’s new manager, who graciously thanked me for coming out.
Seating, merchandising, and coffee/food counter (skirted by Thor’s beautiful art) share the interior space very comfortably, inviting patrons to sit down and read their new copy of Sideburn, catch up with acquaintances, or complete that last email of the afternoon taking advantage of the free wifi.
The patios, front and rear, offer plenty of outside seating for sipping, and supping. Out back, the space is pleasing and comfortable and takes advantage of mixed materials for seating and space definition, including clever application of empty 55 gallon drums, and the old Ford Econoline hauler. There’s also a cozy covered corner deck, for the other 10 ½ months of the year in Oregon when you could get a drop or two of rain.
I finished my Americano with oat milk and was already planning a return trip in my head, next time with a helmet and gloves to deal with.
Congratulations to the whole SEE SEE family on the new shop and thank you for providing a little “Carnival” atmosphere in my head and a caffeinated escape from our current collective noise.
Go for a ride or a drive, put “Sandinista” in your ears, and go “crazy.” The good crazy.
Also, what’s this I spied driving through St. John’s yesterday…?
Photos: Ray Gordon (top); See See (counter), Todd Marella (the rest)