By Nancy Tannler
The Masonic looking symbol on the T-shirt of Belmont Books’ owner Joe Witt, actually reads Ordo Templi Oklahomis, Oklahoma being the place where he was born and raised.
Like most people who migrate somewhere new, he was looking for a better and more creative life, something more in line with his view of the world.
“The allure of Portland was the politics, the DIY attitude, the aesthetics,” he said he was impressed that, “Portland has an effective local government and even has an Urban Growth Boundary or Neighborhood Associations.”
This was back at the turn of the 21st century and, since that time, Joe has done a lot of different things to stay afloat and maintain the values that attracted him to this community.
Joe was a waiter on a train that went from here to Chicago during the Bicentennial Lewis and Clark Celebration. He was the editor of The Alliance until it went to an online format. In 2011 he became a financial planner and remains a partner in Goldmark Financial Planners.
All along the way, he has indulged his passion for buying books. “I have a book collection problem,” he said, but he also receives great joy in buying and reading books.
One of the motivating factors in Joe’s decision to open Belmont Books last year, is his admiration for the small business entrepreneurs that exist here. The idea that not all people shop big box, strip malls or online is a quality he admires. It is these individuals he works for.
“I wanted to offer a well-curated selection of quality books for the everyday reader,” he said and this is just what Belmont Books delivers.
Every shelf you see has an author or a title that either you know or would like to know. The best way to describe the selection is that there aren’t any formulaic writers. Books are arranged in categories and alphabetically. The price point is reasonable.
Sci-fi is a favored genre, and you can find some of the greats and newly becoming greats in many genres: Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula La Guin, Neil Stephenson, Charles Stross and Shirley Jackson.
For some of the news trending authors, like NK Jemison’s Broken Earth Trilogy, he buys new books because they aren’t available secondhand yet.
Joe prefers history and non-fiction. He is currently reading Radical Mycology, a Treaty on Seeing and Working with Fungi by local author Peter McCoy.
This tome is the complete collection of all the magazine articles McCoy has written about the profound influences that fungi have on the evolution of all life and human cultures.
It impresses Joe how many readers like poetry, so there is a full selection devoted to that subject. Contemporary books on the environment and politics are available too for the stout of heart.
He did note the book Drawdown as one that offers solutions to global warming. You can read all the way through or jump to the diagrams pointing out the worst culprits in this climate emergency and what is being done to counter their devastation.
Belmont Books is a small, efficient store and if Joe is there he can immediately direct you to what you are looking for. For newcomers, it is a lovely place to browse the shelves to find something to stimulate your brain and enjoy the written word.
Belmont Books is at 3415 SE Belmont St. Open 11 am – 9 pm daily
Eastside Coffee Bar & Workspace
By Nina Silberstein
Located inside the foyer of the renovated Hinson Baptist Church annex just a block south of the church on SE 20th Avenue, the Eastside Coffee Bar & Workspace is a place that encourages community, creativity and conversation.
The hope is to provide an environment where people can come together to collaborate on projects, work remotely or privately, or simply grab a cup of coffee.
For the last five or six years, the main part of the church building had been empty. There’s a massive auditorium inside that will seat about seven hundred people, as well as a full basement. The coffeeshop’s owner, Tim Mills, said he wanted to use the space to serve the surrounding neighborhood.
“I was having a conversation with our pastor and we were trying to think of what we could do with this empty building. We tossed out ideas and talked about a coffeeshop,” he said. Initially, the idea was tabled, then resurfaced, then pitched to other people, and then tabled again. “This went on for seven years,” he explained.
Demolition work began about four years ago, but stopped because of permitting issues and snags with the city. “Things slowed down pretty drastically,” Tim said, and construction took longer than expected.
“I started full time in November [of 2018], just getting everything ready. We were hoping to open in February, then March, then April, and we finally opened in July.”
In addition, the church has leased different parts of the building to other nonprofits. Currently, there are a number of neighborhood community groups already using the facility for meetings, fundraisers and such.
Tim described phase 1 of the plan as the coffee bar and workspace area. Phase 2 will be renovating the auditorium with the intention of it being used daily with larger conference-style tables that could then be pushed aside for bigger events and even concerts.
He and his wife have two children and they have lived here for about eight years. Their extended family is in Texas and Tim was in seminary school in California before moving here and then transferred to an extension campus in Vancouver.
“The entire time I was going to school, I was working at Starbucks,” he said. Starting as a barista, Tim worked his way up and the last two of those years he was a store manager. He and his family now live a block away from the coffeeshop.
Eastside serves mostly coffee, hot tea, including chai, and pastries. Tim chooses his suppliers carefully, based on the quality of their products, ties to the local neighborhood, and a commitment to ethical sourcing.
It is a nonprofit coffeeshop, which means all proceeds stay within the shop to cover overhead costs. Many nonprofits struggle to find an affordable space to host their events, so the goal here is to provide a space and keep it reasonably priced for others to use.
An additional, unique aspect of the coffeeshop is that all staff are volunteers. There’s a stay-at-home mom, a couple of students and others with full-time jobs who come in on their days off. Eventually Tim hopes to hire some part-time staff, but for now, the volunteers have been working out great.
Eastside Coffee Bar & Workspace is at 1315 SE 20th Ave. See eastsidecoffee.org. 503.915.9078