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Wake up, smell coffee at Tigard library shop

Tori Lungren already has a thriving shop in Portland and plans on a successful venture in the 'burbs
by: Jonathan House, CHECK OUT THE COFFEE — Tori Lungren will be the first face people see as they enter the Tigard Public Library when she is working at her new venture, the Fireside Coffee Corner.

TIGARD - The smell of freshly brewed coffee has been greeting visitors at the Tigard Public Library since Monday's opening of the Fireside Coffee Corner.

A cozy corner of the cavernous lobby is again filled with all the ingredients for a huge variety of espresso drinks, coffees, teas and smoothies along with pastries and sandwiches.

Tori Lungren, a Tualatin resident who has four years' experience in the coffee business, is the second vendor to take up residence in the library lobby, where a kitchen area was constructed with all the amenities for such a business when the library was built two years ago.

'I'm looking forward to providing service to the community along with good coffee,' Lungren said. 'I'm taking a risk, but I have experience under my belt. There are 1,000 visitors to the library every day, and I've heard lots of city employees want to come.

'I don't expect to get a lot of traffic off Hall Boulevard because there are so many drive-through coffee places in the area. But there are those apartments and houses close to the library, and I hope to get some drive-by business.'

Lungren took an interesting route to get into the coffee business, starting with no prior experience.

A few years ago, she was an operations officer at a Beaverton bank working the night shift.

'There was no place for us to go for coffee,' she said. 'A Beaverton Starbucks was the only 24-hour place, and it was always crowded. I knew our bank would be merging and I would be looking for something else to do, so I started formulating a business plan for a 24-hour coffee shop.'

The bank merger took place Nov. 8, 2001, and 500 jobs were lost, including Lungren's.

But she was ready take on a new venture and opened the Fireside Coffee Lodge at the intersection of Southeast Powell and 13th in Portland on April 15, 2002.

For 2½ years, it was almost the only 24-hour coffee shop in Portland except for one Starbucks, according to Lungren.

And her shop turned into as booming business - after 16 months, it won the Better Business Bureau's Business of the Year Award.

Lungren thinks that maybe her small shop had an influence on the giant Starbucks mega-corporation. To wit, one day a group of Starbucks 'suits' were in her shop with graphs and drawings and data spread out on their table, and shortly afterwards, Starbucks started operating two more 24-hour shops in Portland.

'We do our best business from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.,' Lungren said. 'It's a quiet shop, and we provide Internet service. Our biggest clientele is college students, plus commerce goes on all night.

'We get cops, firefighters, funeral people, garbage truck drivers, cab and tow truck drivers, 911 operators - after a lot of people go to bed, there's a whole other world going on at night. And we provide a great place for people to go.'

Lungren was doing just fine running her Southeast Portland shop when she received a request for proposals for the Tigard library coffee shop. The previous vendor closed its operation last spring.

'I looked at it and thought it would be fun if I wasn't wrapped up in my Portland shop,' Lungren said. 'I didn't do anything, but then city people approached me. They had been in my shop. There's a reason why a situation presents itself twice.

'I wasn't prepared to buy another set of equipment, so I approached my coffee roasters and other people I knew and asked what they could provide for me. They worked with me, and I got an espresso machine and a smoothie machine plus a display case and everything else I needed.'

Fortunately, the coffee business at the library 'is not anywhere as much work as the first one,' Lungren said.

The Fireside Coffee Corner will be open the same hours as the library, although it will open one-half hour earlier than the library.

'There's a line of people waiting to get in, like 10 to 40 people,' Lungren said. 'If there's a demand for earlier hours, I will consider it. If something is booked in the Community Center, I might be open.'

She invites people in the community to stop by and try her wide array of beverages and foods, and so far, a lot of them have.

Lungren even ran out of some supplies in the first days of business, 'which is a good thing,' she said.