Friday, December 2, 2016

Upcycling Around Town: Astoria, OR

Street 14 Cafe

Finding evidence of intelligent reuse in my own backyard


I must admit—It wasn’t until I had embarked upon this three-month journey into the ins and outs of upcycling that I had even really noticed many of the best ‘upcyclers’ in my very midst. 

A stroll around town opened my eyes. 

Street 14 Cafe

The upcycling at Street 14 Cafe in Astoria, Oregon, happens from dawn to dusk. Every time a shot is pulled (which is frequently), the spent grounds are saved, and then later distributed to small local farms. 

The nitrogen-rich coffee grounds then make their way back to the cafe in the shape of zucchini, squash, mushrooms—and revolving spectrum of seasonal veggie bounty. 
“It’s nice to know that it goes back into the soil that we literally get produce from. It’s nice to keep that circle going,” said cafe owner Micha Cameron-Lattek. 

Mischa and his wife, Jennifer, bought the Street 14 Cafe in downtown Astoria, Oregon, about four years ago, after moving to the small coastal town of 11,000, directly from the bustle and creative buzz of Berlin.

This busy corner coffee shop supplies farmers and foragers alike, with more grounds than they need, free of charge. 

“They’re great fertilizer,” Micha said. “And, that’s just something we’re happy to get rid of, and not throw away.”

Upcycled lamp fixture at Street 14 Cafe

Jennifer has roots in the Northwest and holds a doctorate in German language studies, and Micha has been interested in American culture and arts most his life, but is German born and bred, which may partly explain why upcycling has taken such firm root at Street 14. 

Germany was recently ranked the number one recycler in the world. So it’s no surprise that upcycling affects other parts of this cafe.

Milk waste is a common problem for coffee shops. Every latte or cappuccino results in a bit of leftover milk. That has some practical reasons. 

“It’s kind of embarrassing to serve someone a ten-ounce, twelve-ounce latte,” Micha said with a laugh.

But Street 14 turns these leftovers, typically destined for the bottom of the sink, and upcycles the milk into a house-made ricotta. (This exquisite cafe transforms itself into a delicious dinner spot at night.) 

Street 14 also features some prominent architectural upcycling. Their iconic red neon COFFEE SHOP sign previously graced the exteriors of long-since demolished Portland-area diners. Only the diligence and perhaps, its move indoors at Street 14, has kept this beauty beaming. 

Micha recently had to take the ‘H’ into the shop. “The transformer was from 1982,” he said.

Upcycled fixture at Street 14 Cafe

Interior walls of the cafe also feature tastefully repurposed burlap coffee bags, lamps made from vintage fixtures or salvaged industrial ‘kick-knacks,’ and some bar paneling, (possibly) made from old cabinetry. 

“It wasn’t uncommon actually for coffee shops to make things look old and reused when they really weren’t,” Micha said. 

The Cameron-Lattek’s have used local contractors, craftspeople and artists to maintain a warm and elegant space. Between the unpretentious ’upcycled’ vibe, the sumptuous Stumptown Coffee and the house-made treats and savory eats, Street 14 is a place I’m happy to call a home away from home. 

Fort George Brewery

Fort George Brewery has incorporated many upcycled elements

Incredibly good beer. Tasty filling food. Cool-ass old buildings. There are many arguments for and few arguments against a brew and a burger at Fort George Brewery and Public House. But now I’ve realized there’s more reasons to check out this brewery, (besides the Magnanimous IPA brewed with fir tips). Ample examples of artful and practical upcycling efforts ferment in this historic and interesting space dedicated to good times, community cooperation and great beer.

You would never know that a great circular fir table in the upstairs dining room was once part of the floor just about 20 feet away. When adding a circular stair case, owners Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris along with their contractors had to hammer through a concrete floor and then cut through six-inch thick flooring made of slated fir. As they cut into the wood, they realize it might be possible to get it all out in one piece.

Table upcycled from a cut through the floor for a circular staircase at Fort George Brewery
It was so heavy they had to use a block and tackle to lift it out of a void in the floor that would eventually become a pathway down a circular stairwell leading to the downstairs pub. Jack said after a metal band was fitted around the perimeter of the table, and “about a ‘gazillion gallons of epoxy” was applied to its surface, the slab was affixed to an old spool made for heavy fishing line. Presto! An elegant and sturdy table. 

Local woodworker Tim Kennedy and contractor Simo Renta were instrumental in putting it all together. The heavy cast iron steps for the staircase were essentially salvaged from the Astoria Column and are nearly 90 years old. The column got a new staircase when cracks were noted in some of the stairs a few years ago.

Table at Fort George upcycled from demolished bowling alley

But actually, everywhere you look you can find evidence of upcycling at the Fort George. All the stools upstairs are made from old wine and whiskey barrels by a local artisan Roger McKay. Many of the smaller tables are made from wood salvaged from a demolished Salem-area bowling alley. 

Beer ingredients too are upcycled. Spent grain and hops feed local pigs and dairy cows. Neighbors tote off bushels of spent malt for their backyard gardens. 

The are other marvels to wonder here too (like massive fermentations tanks and great river views). Grab a pint and a wood-fired pizza — look around — and you’ll see many ways upcycling can turn rubbish into radical.


Cargo and Imogen Gallery have created an outdoor upcycled parkelette, and have featured upcycled art

James Defeo, creator of the vegan-inspired, enigmatic and seemingly eternal Paradox Cafe in S.E. Portland, moved to Astoria about ten years ago to essentially test the waters and ‘do something different.’

Since opening the Astoria Coffeehouse and Bistro, Defeo has added Cargo, a knick-knack and curio shop packed with charming and foreign looking art and artifice imported from Asia and India. A few months ago he opened a decidedly more upscale addition to his oeuvre; Carruthers, a fine dining establishment bedecked with classical floor length mirrors and warm, dim lighting. 

Whatever his project, art seems to infuse Defeo’s creations and accomplishments. His latest was turing a parking space, into a park.

A new 'parklette' made from upcycled pallets at Cargo and Imogen Gallery

Well, a ‘parklette,’ to use the official terminology. The wood-lined space juts out from the sidewalk in front of Cargo which is directly across from his coffeehouse. The 8 by 20 foot space will offer a gathering space for people during ‘art walks’ and a respite for weary tourists and local walkers. And, it’s made entirely of reused or recycled materials. 

The wood walls are created from shipping pallets donated by the bike shop across the street. A local plumber supplied old pipes that were used to frame the parklette. Defeo ran electricity underneath the sidewalk to light the little space for evening events. 

The non-slip floor is the only purchased piece of material, but it’s made entirely from recycled bottles. Defeo likes the upcycling ethos, but also said the city required that the structure be made of recycled and recyclable materials as a condition of approval.

Cargo and Imogen Gallery and a 'parklette'

Bringing the parklette to fruition was not exactly easy. Defeo had to write a proposal and his application languished with city agency after city agency for almost a year and a half. But he persisted. 

“We just thought it could be better used as a people’s gathering space, instead of a parking space,” Defeo said. 

On the inside of the Cargo space, Defeo has collaborated with an adjoining gallery, Imogen, and the owner Teri Sund, to create a bright and airy space to show off the work of Lam Quang and Kestrel Gates who create their art lighting, HiiH Lamps, made from reclaimed and handmade materials.

“They’re old Alberta artists that go way back,” Defeo said — in an artful space surrounded by vast paintings of abstract seas, under glowing lamps made of hand-recycled paper and upcycled bike rims. 

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