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Damascus coffee shop gets boost through Umpqua Bank contest

SUBMIT PHOTO - Erica Escalante and her husband, Trevor Abel, won $10,000 from Umpqua Bank to expand the The Arrow Cofeehouse.Erica Escalante’s passion to create a community coffeehouse in Damascus was recognized this month through an Umpqua Bank contest that awarded the small business a $10,000 check.

Escalante and her husband, Trevor Abel, purchased Arrow Coffee House, 19880 S.E. Highway 212, in 2013 after Escalante worked there for years as a barista when it was under different ownership.

“I was 22 at the time,” Escalante said. “I’m married and have a husband and daughter … (I said) ‘This is either going to crash and burn, or be a success.’”

While Escalante is originally from San Diego, Abel was born and raised in Gresham and went to Damascus Middle School.

He met Escalante through The Journey Church in Damascus and asked her to be his girlfriend in the coffee shop before they owned it.

The couple was even married in Damascus in the backyard of one of the shop’s customers.

“Me personally, I don’t have any family in town, and Damascus has just become our family,” Escalante said. “We bring our daughter to work almost every day. My customers will take care of her, watch her for me. They call her the community coffee baby.”

The shop is named for Trevor Abel’s father, Don, a well-respected leader in the Boy Scouts of America — and member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouts honors group — who Trevor said had tremendous impact on Scouts in the Gresham area.

Don Abel died unexpectedly at age 56, two months after Escalante and Trevor Abel married. Order of the Arrow representatives visited his funeral to break an arrow as a symbol of peace.

“We were so sad when he died. It was hard for us, and we didn’t know yet we were going to buy the coffee shop,” Escalante said. “We were so excited and so happy (when we bought the shop). It helped us get through the mourning process, and we wanted to give it his name.”

Escalante, 24, said owning the shop has been “so much work,” but fun and rewarding at the same time.

“I love this industry. I love the community service aspect ... and the tradition of coffee and food and how it brings people together,” she said.

In her video application to Umpqua Bank, Escalante explained that she would use the award money to expand their offerings to the community by partnering with local farms in Damascus to serve farm-fresh food.

To win the money from Umpqua, Escalante, who had to collect the most Facebook votes, was shocked by how the community gathered to help her.

“We had over 4,200 people voting for us,” she noted. “For a small Damascus business, we were just amazed and really humbled because the community really came about around us. It was a huge mobilization of an army to make sure we won this money.”

Escalante said Arrow Coffee House is where you can find the true heart of Damascus, away from all of the recent fighting about disincorporation.

“If you came in the coffee shop and spent an hour here, you’d see that none of that stuff enters in here,” Escalante said. “People are so tired about the drama and the fighting. Politics are hard and it’s just such a beautiful town. I don’t think (the disincorporation battle) represents the people here at all. It’s absolutely a kind community.”

JWeinberger@theoutlookonline.com

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