About Us

John Walsh's first experience with coffee was in 1990. He and Cathy were new residents of Seattle, Washington and a friend got him a Mocha from Starbucks to experience some local culture. What followed was described as the most productive day of his life and an instant interest in coffee.

John and Cathy had recently traveled across the country after a fruitless job search at home on the east coast. As new college graduates, they were happy to see the country, and finally settled in Seattle. After John's first experience with coffee, the couple discovered Espresso Vivace, just around the corner from their apartment, and were amazed at the coffee in the espresso only café, the latte art on top of the delicious drinks and the relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

After they married, John and Cathy chose to return to the east coast, and they realized their mutual love for coffee held potential as a business plan, a chance to have more freedom in business and bring home something rare for the northeast. They began research, scouring the area for cafés, making notes of what worked and what didn't. But even as they searched the city, they couldn't find anything that compared to their experience at Espresso Vivace, a trend that continued as the brought their search across the country on their trip back home in 1993.

John and Cathy chose Portland as the home of their dream café, and found jobs nearby, working as a salesman and in a clothing store, respectively. Unable to acquire their first choice of location at 2 Free St., they moved into 16 Free St. In 1995 they opened shop as a husband and wife team, calling their café Arabica. Cathy worked the register and John slaved at the machine striving to make the perfect shots, cappuccinos and lattes. After a few years of sourcing coffee from a few different roasters, John became interested in roasting coffee himself. The Walshs obtained a loan that allowed Arabica to move to the originally desired 2 Free St. location, and with some instruction from Scott Rao, set up a roasting space on eastern Commercial St. in 2009. All of the coffee has been roasted by John ever since.

After a few years in the new space, John and Cathy wanted to spread the word about their coffee and expand the experience of their café. Cathy wanted to bring the roaster out of John's "man cave," and let the public see the process of roasting their arabica coffee. They were approached by someone with an empty building that was wanting a coffee shop. As other interested parties lost interest in the space, John and Cathy moved forward with the offer and the Commercial St. location was born. The new Arabica café has been a successful endeavor, giving a new home to the roaster, a kitchen to make great food, and an open and welcoming space to develop the environment created with the first café. We hope that you'll be able to join us at either location, share in our story and our continuing passion for providing a place of rest and community, and of course, a great cup of coffee.