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Arts & Entertainment

Powell’s Books on Burnside has a New Cafe

The Princess Bride themed cafe, Guilder, has opened a new branch in Powell’s Books on Burnside, Friday, November 26. The restaurant is a Portland-based business, run by owners Caryn Nelson, Mike Nelson, Toby Roberts and Carrie Lind. 

Walk up to their counter and you can order the Miracle Pill: a seasonal drink named for the pill created by medicine man Miracle Max to revive Westley in The Princess Bride. If you’re peckish, you may want to order one of the food items named for the story’s characters, such as Farm Boy Oats or the Buttercup dutch baby. 

Already, the new store has seen quite a bit of popularity. Pam VanCalcar, a patron at Powell’s, enjoyed her stop at the cafe, “I think in the Northwest, it’s important to have both coffee and books to get through the winter, so it’s nice to have the two combined,” VanCalcar said “It was really crowded there, so I think a lot of people in Portland will take advantage of having a coffee shop with a book store.” She also hopes that she can visit again and spend more time there when the cafe is less crowded. 

Back before the first Guilder shop opened in 2017, the four owners were looking to open a location for their coffee roastery. The word inconceivable came up in a conversation with their landlord. Vizzini, the Sicilian, is very fond of this word, using it frequently throughout The Princess Bride. From this conversation was born the idea for the name, and the theme of the cafe followed. ‘Guilder’ comes from the name of the rival country to Florin, where all the characters live. The story turned out to be the perfect theme for a coffee shop. As Caryn Nelson, one of the owners, said, “There’s adventure, there’s romance, there’s humor. Friendship is a big part of it too, so I think that just matches […] [the] good feeling that one would hope to have in a coffee shop.”

At the cafe’s original location in NE Portland, the walls are ornamented with portraits of Princess Bride characters, gifted to the restaurant by painter and fan of the story, Dustin Sherron and a commissioned mural of Fezzik, the giant, by local artist VoMinh Burney. At the new location on Burnside, another local artist, Kate Blairstone, created custom toile wallpaper with a Princess Bride meets Portland theme. It depicts characters climbing Big Pink as if it were The Cliffs of Insanity, riding horses off towards Mt. Hood, and the Dread Pirate Roberts’ ship sailing beneath the Steel Bridge. 

Caryn and Mike Nelson started their first project: Junior’s Roasted Coffee in 2014. Through this business, they roast all their coffee for Guilder. The pair are also the founders of Cost of Production Covered: a project created to determine and pay the total price that it costs for a farm to produce coffee. They also value providing transparency about this journey from farm to sale. This is to ensure that coffee producers can turn a profit and that they are able to keep their farms running. 

Mike Nelson has a background in studying sustainability, says Caryn,“He went to grad school for that and he really saw the business as a way to practice what he was researching in school […] because he didn’t want it to just sit in a research paper somewhere.” Coffee is traded around the world as a commodity at about $1.00 per pound, almost the same price as it went for in the 1970’s. On the website for Junior’s Roasted Coffee, they report that in reality, it takes about $4.00 per pound to pay for everything needed to produce the coffee. Even with that price, it would be hard to turn much of a profit on top of keeping their farm running. “Historically, coffee producers have not been able to profit from transactions, and we see [coffee] producers like us, just a business, and we have expenses to pay, we have loans to repay, prices are increasing on some of our supplies and things like that, just like it is for them,” says Nelson.

Guilder supports sustainability in other ways as well, working with a local company called GO Box to reduce the waste produced from take out containers. If you subscribe to the GO Box service, you can get your food or drink in a reusable container, and after use, return it to any GO Box drop off location, including the Guilder cafe. There, it will be collected, cleaned and redistributed. 

The cafe is also partnering with DefaultVeg and The Better Food Foundation to make plant based milk alternatives easily accessible and available at the same price as dairy milk. When ordering, customers are asked to specify if they would like dairy, almond, soy, or oat milk in their drink. The production of plant-based products creates a smaller carbon footprint than those that are animal-based, so swapping out some of their dairy for plant-based alternatives helps reduce Guilder’s impact on the climate. 

It’s no secret that small businesses have been struggling during the past couple of years. Guilder benefited greatly from the financial assistance the government provided last year but things are still uncertain. “We were able to open again and do it within our own safety and health guidelines and feel good about that and, you know, regain some of our financial footing, but there’s a lot that still feels uncertain about the future,” Nelson stated. 

Despite this, the year also brought a positive opportunity for the cafe and Nelson seems excited to be opening the new location in such a prolific place: “It’s so cool just being in the middle of this building that holds so much more than books but also to be surrounded by all that knowledge is kind of overwhelming sometimes.” Now partnered with the historic Powell’s Books, it seems that Guilder and The Princess Bride will be leaving an imprint on the heart of Portland’s culture forever.

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