Junior’s Roasted Coffee is a micro-roastery and cafe based in Portland, Oregon, and was founded by Caryn and Mike Nelson. In October, 2014 The Nelsons started roasting as Junior’s while living in Tallahassee, Florida. They wished to combine Mike’s background in academia and coffee with Caryn’s background in community service and hospitality in a project that would serve a community and create relationships around quality coffee and sustainability education. After Mike completed graduate school at Florida State University they returned to Portland, where Mike’s family calls home, to join forces with business partners Toby Roberts and Carrie Lind. Together they opened Guilder, a cafe that also serves as the Junior’s Roasted Coffee roastery. In 2021, a second Guilder Cafe opened inside Powell's Books in downtown Portland. In early 2023, they opened the Junior's Roasted Coffee cafe that is co-located with Upright Brewing.
There is so much good tasting coffee in the specialty coffee world. When Caryn and Mike started Junior’s they wanted to think deeper about what makes a good roasting company. While quality is about roasting coffee to best suit its terroir, and brewing it to best represent all of the hard work and dedication that poured into that product from seed to cup, they wanted quality or “specialty” coffee to mean more than just excellent taste. They wanted quality to be better sound environmental and social conditions at the farm level, about equitable trade practices between all supply stream partners, about how Junior’s operates as a business in Portland, and about how Junior’s transparently shares that story with the consumer. Junior’s Roasted Coffee aims to make coffee better by helping people make a connection with their coffee in the cafe, at educational events, and through wholesale partnerships. They welcome you to join Junior’s in exploring how to make coffee better.
Get to know Junior’s
Junior is considered the offspring of the Nelson family, and is a culmination of Caryn and Mike’s shared interests, values, and goals for the future. “Junior” was also the name of their first coffee roasting machine, a 1.5 kilo coffee roaster that was sourced near Caryn’s home town in Pennsylvania. As their own personal endeavor grew to include former co-workers and friends, the brand expanded to encompass the dreams of a small community. They see Junior as a child growing up in the modern world around them, assisted by those with rich and varied lived experiences, and intentions of creating a legacy that will make a positive impact. After the first eight years of finding their footing, discovering their own sense of self, and building a team, Junior is currently exploring how their intentions and actions affect the greater communities around them. They’ve learned that making a positive impact is only possible through building trusting relationships, continued analysis and evaluation, and remaining accountable and humble.
At the 2020 annual staff retreat the team at JRC/Guilder conducted an exercise to determine the values that would guide them into the future. The group explored current and aspirational principles and contributed over forty to the list. From this list, the top three were transparency, community and sustainability. Below, we share how we define these values.
Transparency: We want you to know what we know, and if we don’t know something, we want you to know that too. We want you to know how we operate and why. Business often uses smoke and mirrors, and we want to show that it doesn’t have to.
Community: We are working with coffee, a globalized product, and so when we think of community, we’re visualizing it on many scales. We’re building relationships to support and respond to our local economy, but are also working with our importer, exporter, and producer partners to establish long term, reciprocal relationships. When we’re making business decisions, we want to consider our role in fellowship with others.
Sustainability: Economic growth isn’t always good, and can happen at the expense of humans and the environment. We recognize that our business decisions result in impacts that resonate beyond our own backyard. We aspire to identify problematic impacts and use our power, resources, and abilities to meaningfully address them.
Meet the Team
Mike brings almost 20 years of experience in the industry as a barista, educator, trainer and roaster with specialty coffee companies in Portland, New York, and Scandinavia. He earned a MSc in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science at Lund University in Sweden and a MSc in Geography at Florida State University. His graduate research began with a focus on climate change impacts on coffee leaf rust, and evolved into coffee producer knowledge systems. Mike is the Director of Coffee, leading sourcing, roasting, quality control, and education for Junior’s.
Caryn holds degrees in Food and Beverage Management and Business Administration. They worked for a decade in the nonprofit sector with a variety of organizations including serving two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Prior to her experience in nonprofit administration, she was a barista, server, and bartender. As the Director of Talent and Company Wellbeing, Caryn oversees administration, human resources, marketing, and sales for Junior’s. Caryn and Mike first met as undergrads at Portland State University where they worked together at the student-run Food for Thought Cafe (FFT). After years of running into each other at coffee shops around Portland, they fell in love and married in 2011. They live in the Cully neighborhood of Portland with their cat, Edith (Edi).
Toby is a hospitality professional, with over 24 years in the industry. He holds a degree in marketing from Portland State University, and has worked in almost every conceivable capacity within the restaurant industry; front of house, back of house, and above store. Toby was at different times the director of finance and president of Pok Pok Restaurants, a bi-coastal restaurant group. He is currently a professional 3rd wheel, partnering with life-partner-dynamos Mike and Caryn Nelson, as well as life-partner-phenoms Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly at restaurants, Gado Gado and Oma's Hideaway. As the Director of Finance, he oversees accounting, strategic planning, capital acquisition, and other business related work. Toby also worked at FFT where he, Caryn, and Mike met in 2004. He lives in the Cully neighborhood with his wife, Steph, and their two children, Evie and Tennessee.
Carrie grew up in southern Wisconsin, but moved to Portland in 1996 to study English Literature at Lewis & Clark College. Although she has significant prior experience in the coffee industry, she has been working as an immigration Legal Assistant and Case Manager since 2014. She currently lives in Vancouver, WA with her 13 year old son, two dogs, and her cat. Carrie and Mike worked together at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and re-connected around the possibility of going into business together. Carrie is not currently involved with day-to-day operations but her wise counsel is sought often on business development, and external communications.