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Coffee and community are on, at Caffe Dimora

by: Judy Beaudette, Dave Dilley, the owner of the new Caffe Dimora, pouring his brew.

Dave Dilley, the owner of newly-opened Caffe Dimora, in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood north of Holgate, explains that he seeks to offer more than just a coffee shop--he wants to 'create a place I would want to go to, something comfortable, classy and available for everyone.'

Serving hand-rolled cinnamon rolls hot from the oven certainly embodies the taste and smell of comfort, but Dilley's ambitions go beyond classiness and comfort--he says he is determined to enhance his neighborhood too. About Creston-Kenilworth he says, 'I feel there's a strong sense of community here, and I want to do whatever I can to support that.'

His support his real. After opening his café in the big purple building on the corner of 42nd and Gladstone, Dilley heard customers exchange ideas for improving the neighborhood. The suggestions included adding planters in front of the cafe, forming a neighborhood watch, and removing a pay phone. Dilley listened and thought, 'Hey, if we can meet in one place, it's easier to work together.' He continues, 'It is that presence of community that will get rid of crime.'

To that end, he called a neighborhood meeting at Caffe Dimora in October. A dozen neighbors gathered to meet each other, voice concerns, and discuss ways to reduce crime. Stephanie Reynolds, the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association Public Safety Chair, was present and offered practical tips for making the neighborhood safer.

Dilley is open to using Caffe Dimora as a meeting place for 'any event that is a good idea, and that other people will enjoy. If it's good for everyone and the community, I'm open to it.' Prompted by one customer's request, Dilley has agreed to stay open an extra two hours twice a month for poetry readings, and he envisions live music events in the future. The cafe's dog-friendly back yard has already attracted impromptu gatherings among people looking for a place to enjoy their coffee with their dogs in tow.

Dilley, who lives with his dog, Gravity, in an apartment above the coffee shop, announces that he embraces that spirit of community further by serving local products. 'My goal is to provide the best possible products from local companies who care about what they do,' he writes to his customers on the neighborhood listserv.

As an example, when Dilley met Dave Ewald and Christy Goldsby of Blue Gardenia Bakers and Coffee Roasters, a company in Northeast Portland, he was impressed by their mission statement and way of doing business. Blue Gardenia forms direct relationships with coffee farmers around the world, and Dilley considers their way of doing business 'more than fair trade.'

Keeping the focus on local products, Caffe Dimora offers loose leaf tea by The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants, a Portland company owned by a husband and wife team. Baked goods arrive from Gabriel's Bakery, and Blue Gardenia delivers fresh, hand-rolled cinnamon and pecan rolls, which Dilley bakes daily in his oven on-site.

'I don't want even one person to say that wasn't a great cup of coffee or cinnamon roll.' Says Dilley. He works 16 to 18 hour days, delivering quality drinks, sandwiches and baked goods for customers. As one customer is served espresso, another walks in carrying two of the cafe's ceramic coffee cups. Dilley greets him by name, then explains that he's fine with people taking their coffee home in one of his cups, as long as they return the cup later. 'It's worked out every single time.'

Dimora means 'dwelling' or 'residence' in Italian. Dave Dilley's cafe at 4135 S.E. Gladstone is quickly becoming a 'dimora' where Creston-Kenilworth neighbors can connect with each other and build community, while enjoying some outstanding Portland products. 'What sets Portland neighborhoods apart from others elsewhere is the sense of community they have,' says Dilley. 'I feel lucky to be part of such a great neighborhood.'