Portland knows what’s up when it comes to coffee.
I’ve been a long time fan of this coffee roaster, and hey, when it’s owned by a guy named Tyler…it just feels like the stars aligned for this one.
I want to share the story of Dapper & Wise, and welcome them as our Coffee Roaster of the Month for August. It’s been years since I’ve been to Portland, and sadly my plans to get back there this past April for Coffee Expo 2020 were thwarted by COVID (same goes for many of us I am sure.) But even if it’s been a while since being back in the city of Roses, I’ve made sure to get my hands on coffee from there any chance I could get.
So to celebrate the coffee culture of Portland and to learn more of the story of one of its finest roasters (in my opinion) I reached out to Tyler Geel to hear more from him.
Q: So who is the team behind Dapper & Wise?
[D&W] Dapper and Wise Roasters is owned by two friends, Evan Aldrete and Tyler Geel [T.G], and we met in a musical theater traveling troupe. Spending a year in a bus and performing 8 times a week is a unique opportunity to really get to know someone. And the best part is that for a portion of the show our roles were pitted against each other as mortal enemies. We became great friends through that tour and eventually decided to become business partners! Our roastery has a stellar crew of folks who have grown with us over the years into the bustling little outfit it is today. Because we are a home-grown small business, each team member really needs to wear several hats during each workday and they’ve really done a good job at supporting each other to get the jobs done.
Q: So Tyler, where are you originally from? How did you end up in Portland?
[T.G] I am originally from Florida and Virginia. As a Navy family, we moved every three years and my family finally settled in Northern VA, Washington DC area where I spent my teenage years.
So, it’s a bit of an unusual story how I ended up in Portland. After college, I travelled with a few different musical theater companies for a few years, performing in every intercontinental state (visited HI but still need to make it up to AK!) and always loved our stops in Portland. I loved the arts and coffee culture in the city and even though folks would tell me of the months of rain and grey, all I saw was lush greens and beautiful roses. In hindsight, we were always scheduled in Portland during late May…perhaps it was an unrealistic lure. But it worked! And when my now business partner moved here from California to get married to his wife, I came out to be the best man in the wedding. Then I never left. All I owned was in my suitcase already so it was a pretty easy move and I had great hopes of starting a life out here. Met my wife here, started our cafes business, then roastery here and the rest is history…
Q: What’s your backstory in specialty coffee?
[T.G] I’d always loved coffee growing up. My Godmother would always make me a Brazilian coffee (mostly cream and cinnamon with a touch of coffee) when I would see her and I think that’s what started my passion for the beverage. Evan’s wife, Amy was in the Portland coffee culture for over 10 years in mom & pop shops as well as corporate companies and when I was first here in Portland wrestling over finding a career, the grand idea of a coffeeshop popped into our heads.
Q: Who were some of your early influences?
[T.G] Well, you weren’t able to be a Portland-area coffeeshop or barista in the late 2000’s without being influenced by the up-and-coming company Stumptown Coffee. But our biggest influence in the beginning was the Cannon Beach coffee roaster, Sleepy Monk, who not only allowed us to serve their coffee but also mentored us in the early years. I think the biggest concept they instilled in us was authenticity. Don’t try to be a different company than who YOU are as people. Shine YOUR genuine light of personality and it will attract your community… and that’s what happened.
Tell us a bit about the history of Dapper & Wise.
[T.G] To know Dapper & Wise, one needs to go back to 2007 to see three 20-somethings opening a cafe in Hillsboro, Oregon (outskirts of Portland) called Insomnia Coffee Company. We are DIYers and pieced the shop together pretty much all on our own. We made it work and we did the work. No employees for the first 6 months, working 100 hour weeks. The Aldretes had a 2 month old son when we first opened and I got married 4 months into shop ownership.
2007 was a blur of a year for us and we were just running on adrenaline. We had so much fun building a community and our vision was really embraced by our friends and neighbors. Within 5 years we had 3 busy Insomnia Coffee locations and were desiring more control and information in the beans. We knew our customer base well and wanted to cater more to their needs. So we stepped out and started roasting on our own. What a fantastic experience of learning, stress, joy and challenge!
Q: So why the name Dapper & Wise?
[T.G] We liked the classic two-last-name brands that are truly timeless and as we were drafting the name, we realized we were creating our mantra and vision statement. These two adjectives were attributes we’d like to be said of us, but it meant even more in the ways we run business. Dapper: flashy, fun, trendy, attractive, exciting. But not just stopping there with skin deep beauty. Wise: depth of knowledge, quality, constant learning, peace, stability, self-awareness. The name has a ring to it… and full of meaning for us.
Q: When did your first cafe open? How many do you have in total?
[T.G] So we have 5 Insomnia Coffee locations now on the westside of Portland and 5 years ago we opened a Dapper & Wise Cafe on Division Street in Portland. Insomnia Coffee is a neighborhood feel, like a living room, where the Dapper & Wise Cafe really showcases our brand and how our coffee could fit in wholesale partners around the country. As of COVID restrictions hitting Portland hard right at the time of our lease renewal for the Dapper & Wise Cafe, we have chosen to sell that beautiful location and focus our energies on the Insomnia Coffee shops, giving another roaster the opportunity to continue fostering the community we built there on Division Street.
We started everything on a 12 kilo Diedrich built in Idaho where Evan was trained to be our first master roaster. Now, we also use a rebuilt vintage 22 kilo Probat that we had shipped from Germany… that was an ordeal!
Q: There’s no question that the coffee community in Portland is known for being one of the best coffee communities ,perhaps in the world. So what about it do you love?
[T.G] We’ve seen some considerable shifts in the Portland coffee community from being the coffee mecca full of snobby baristas, to being so welcoming and focusing energies on providing the best customer service possible. It’s been fun pairing the best coffees that can be found with fantastic, memorable customer experiences. It is no surprise that with the birth of 3rd wave coffee (which sounds so cliche now), Portland was on the cutting edge and progressive leader. But I think now there is more of a realization of genuine authenticity and sustainability over certain types of movements. Or perhaps that’s what we’ve been feeling and experiencing. It’s almost like the coffee industry gets more mature as it ages…but again, maybe that’s just my own perspective.
Q: What sets Dapper & Wise apart from the many other coffee roasters in the city? Feel free to toot your own horn!
[T.G] One of our major goals is to be approachable and friendly. Yes, we have fantastic coffee, yes we know how to roast it and serve it with excellence, but if we fail to connect with the end user and treat them as a fellow human instead of cash machine, we have dropped the ball. We love to help customers, even inexperienced in the ways of this industry, find the fun in coffee. While we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we focus so much time and effort on sourcing and roasting excellent beans to thrill our customer base.
I think we have a unique perspective in that we serve a very diverse group of people and are able to meet them all wherever they are. All ages and all levels of experience are welcome to interact with our coffees, learn and enjoy!
Q: Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
[T.G] One of the initial changes we’ve noticed is online ordering for easy pickup. We’ve implemented the practise in our shops as well to make grabbing a beverage or bag of coffee as accessible as possible now. We mourn the loss of interaction but do our best to share a smile with our eyes, even behind a mask. I am very curious to see how this resilient industry steps up to adapt with sustainable ideas.
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
[T.G] Peru La Coipa is hitting the spot for me with tasting notes of stroopwafel, apple butter and brownie. Goes great with cream, but my favorite is black, brewed through a Kalita. Delicious.
Tell the readers of commonly coffee about some of your recent accomplishments. Or any upcoming announcements?
[T.G] We’ve been honored to be showcased with a residency at the La Marzocco Cafe in Seattle and a few nominations for our fun Instagram videos from Sprudge. But what we consider as the biggest accomplishments would be sharing our education and resources with our phenomenal cafe wholesale accounts like Zen Coffee (Omaha, KS), Fika Sisters (Sisters, OR) and Kevista Coffee (Bend, OR). These are the real MVP’s. They are an extension of our heart for hospitality and community care. We’ve been able to mentor them along the way like we were mentored 13 years ago. They have taken our vision for approachable excellence and have opened the door to welcome their diverse followings.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
[T.G] There are valuable life lessons to be learned everywhere. As we progress in business and in life, striving to be better business leaders and humans, I think we’re able to glean from each other and in unexpected areas. For me personally, I’m exploring self-expression through abstract painting. As I use this creative outlet as a stress reliever, I’ve discovered my unique voice and unusual perspective. My work doesn’t look like someone else’s, it’s definitely my own and I’ve found so much confidence in this. I can’t paint like Picasso…but HE can’t paint like ME. The moment we all get this concept of genuine authenticity will be the moment we can all appreciate our differences and enjoy the variety of life.
This is definitely true in art, but extremely true in business as well. We’ve all had that experience of stepping into a business that is “trying too hard” or doesn’t feel like the real thing. In efforts to be a “product” many water down who they are until there’s nothing left to experience. May we all, as business owners in any industry, be true to ourselves.
So I just wanna say a huge THANK YOU since you read the whole interview! So for being awesome like that here’s something to say thank you with! The Team at Dapper & Wise want to hook you up with a little discount. So go to their web-store and make sure to use WELCOME10 for 10% off your first order. How sweet is that!?
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting! Don’t forget to use the promo code WELCOME10 to save 10% on your first order.
Thank you so much to Tyler for sharing about Dapper & Wise and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Portland! Keep up the great work!