We like to think of Portland as an incubator, keeping creative pioneers and their big ideas warm and safe while they prepare to hatch. The accepting, encouraging community of collaborators found here also makes it the perfect place for someone to launch one of these big ideas, instead of migrating to a larger city like New York or Los Angeles. Ryan Weilert, co-founder of Tres Place, knew this when he set his sights on Portland as his new home, and we couldn’t be happier about him being here.
Ryan’s startup is a unique one, for sure. He has created a website to celebrate our fair city’s innumerable coffee shops, through big imagery, videos, and stories. The real heart of this idea lies in storytelling, and how each story helps to illustrate why each coffee shop is special. While that concept is innovative in itself, Ryan also has bigger plans for Tres Place, which will be incorporated as the site continues to grow (he only started it in June 2012). Eventually, Tres Place will serve as a search engine and an online store, where users can purchase their latte through an app (instead of paying at the cash register). Yeah, we told you this guy was awesome.
E+E: What was the inspiration behind this concept?
Ryan Weilert: I had the idea while I was in an independently owned little private coffee shop in downtown Boulder, and I was reading one of the entrepreneur, small business start up magazines. There was an article by Reid Hoffman, and he was talking about how there’s a huge shift in the future of web startups and there’s a lot of opportunity in databases. And at the time, when I thought database, I thought of search engines; I don’t think that’s exactly what he was talking about, but that’s what I thought of. So I was thinking about some of the search engines that I use, and I thought of Yelp. And I’ve always disliked Yelp.
RW: The information that is given is very objective, and my background is in film; I love storytelling, I love knowing the details about the businesses and what makes them special, what they believe and why they believe it. And Yelp didn’t communicate that. So, sitting at the shop I thought, well there are a lot of different coffee shops out there, but people choose certain coffee shops over others. Price, coffee quality and selection are factors, but it’s really the stories and the space overall that makes them unique. So, the idea was to create a search engine, that’s exclusive to coffee, that focuses on storytelling through imagery, digital media, videos, well-written articles, a photo that will give you goose bumps, that will just capture your attention. After doing a little bit of research in Boulder, I decided there was a need for this, so I moved to Portland on June 7th and started recruiting a founding team for this website.
E+E: What made you move to Portland?
RW: Oh, I love it here. I visited the city probably four or five times in my life before the move and it’s so cool. Portland is medium. It’s still urban, it’s still downtown; you have the skyline, the pro sports teams, the bridges, the river and the different neighborhoods, but it’s manageable, fun, and not overwhelming. I still haven’t discovered the whole city, I still have a lot to learn, but I feel very welcome. People here are so friendly, it’s unbelievable. People have been really talkative, not shy to give directions or smile at you or collectively talk shit on Seattle. I love the rivalry, especially over coffee. There’s buzz about who is the best, and I believe it’s Portland. Portland has positioned itself to be the leader in coffee design, quality and creativity. I’m glad that our startup is here, we wanted to position ourselves in the coffee epicenter, and that’s Portland.
E+E: Where did you come up with the name, Tres Place?
RW: The name came from the concept of the third place. A coffee shop is a social yet personal environment where you can connect with others. And these coffee shops might as well be peoples’ offices or their homes. It’s where they take their lunches, or talk with their moms on the phone; they know the baristas by name, it’s like a little family. And that’s what we’re going for; those are the little details that we’re trying to share.
E+E: Where did your love of coffee come from? Has it always been this strong?
RW: No. Senior year of college, I dated a girl from Seattle and she loved coffee. We did a road trip on spring break to Seattle, and she took me to all her favorite shops. For the first time, I was aware of the details of the industry, from the quality and the art behind partnering with the farm and getting the right beans, to the work that the baristas do. Then when I moved to Boulder, I found a lot of great shops doing this sort of third wave coffee thing, and that’s where I started to fall in love with the industry. And along with the space and the quality, I fell in love with the story; of the roasters, of the baristas, of the design; of the people that went there, and that’s where it really shifted.
Check out their brand new video on Coava Coffee Roasters, the coffee mecca!