You'll know you're not in a Starbucks
Dayna Rainier was as surprised as anyone to find out in April that the biggest competition for her soon-to-open Sol Station Café was going out of business.
Sol Station Café opened for business April 23 at 8510 SW Terwilliger Boulevard. It's located in the southwest corner of the intersection with Southwest Taylor's Ferry Road where the Starbucks used to be. Rainier would have been competing for customers with the popular bakery at Market of Choice supermarket across the street. But then came word that Market of Choice was shutting down effective April 13. Ten days before her opening.
"I had no idea they were going to close. That's a gift from God, I guess," she said during an interview as her café was coming up on one month in business.
Her daughter and managing partner, Mykael, had been the bakery manager at the Market of Choice in West Linn. "We knew the competition, knew they were going to be good, knew they were tied in to the community," she said. "But when Market of Choice left, it left a gap and we want to fill that gap."
Step through the front door of Sol Station and you'll know you're not in a Starbucks anymore.
"People come in here all the time and say 'Oh, you're not Starbucks.' That's exactly what we want them to say," Rainier said. "Because our business model is to be part of the community and have people come in and stay and not drive through and leave. That's the Starbucks plan. We're just the opposite of that."
It's clear that Rainier offers more than a quick caffeine fix. Besides food and drinks Sol Station has a section of the premises that features handmade jewelry, home decor items, high end leather goods, unique greeting cards, crystals, gemstones and essential oils. In fact, more essential oil-infused fruit smoothies than coffee drinks are being sold these days.
"Our smoothies are outselling our coffee even though I feel like we have the best coffee in the state (Nossa Familia). Believe me, we tried them all. We even went to 'Coffee U' in Troutdale," she said of classes offered by the firm started by Alex Fisenko, who reputedly opened America's first expresso shop in Berkeley, Ca. in 1979.
"We were told at 'Coffee U' not to open on Sundays," she said, somewhat amazed. "But it turns out Sunday might be our biggest day of the week. We have lines out the door."
Sol Station, like most local coffee shops, is offering loyal customer cards. Mother and daughter are encouraged that they ran out of cards the first weekend they were open.
Another big difference between Sol Station and Starbucks is provided by Mykael Rainier. She's put together a menu that's "mostly vegan with gluten-free options" that features an egg bagel and six other sandwiches, fresh pastries made on the premises and those essential-oil-infused smoothies, "we don't use a sherbet base or anything like that and we only use real fruit," she said.
Dayna Rainier says she almost didn't end up taking over the corner spot at Terwilliger and Taylor's Ferry. Her first location was in Sellwood on heavily-developed Southeast 13th.
"It was four days until our soft opening and our landlord rented the space right next door to us to another café. We're like, 'What are you doing?'" She knew what she was doing next. "Under our attorney's advice we pulled out in the middle of the night, took all our stuff and put it in storage in Lake Oswego. Then it took us a year to find this place and another year to get it open," she said.
Once open, however, she got a rude welcome to the Collins View neighborhood.
"We've had four episodes of theft and vandalism. But I had seven cameras put in and they haven't touched us since," she said.
"First they came out and stole everything off the roof that was scrap metal. So the fans and wiring were gone and had to be fixed. They then stole our chairs and our furniture from the patio. Third, they came back for a long table off the patio. And fourth they broke out one of the big widows to the patio," she recalled.
A neighbor who she barely knew started a Go Fund Me site to help cover the cost of repairs and replacement. www.gofundme.com/f/sol-station-cafe-outdoor-furniture-replacement
"That shows us the community is very interested. We feel grateful that Laura Sabo started the Go Fund Me page but we feel secure now since the seven cameras went in."
Rainier hopes by mid-June to start happy hour gatherings with beer and wine and special food offerings as well as live music on the patio. In the meantime, "This is a busy intersection. We just need a little help getting people to come in and see our great place," she said.