Has Hipster Coffee Haven Stumptown Sold Out?

June 1, 2011

The blogging world has been thrown into a tizzy after a columnist from Esquire angrily vented that Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters has "sold out" to the highest bidder. 

Founded in 1999 in Portland, Stumptown is often considered a part of the "Third Wave" of coffee innovation. Founder Duane Sorenson stresses fair trade practices and a greater knowledge of precisely where the coffee beans come from. He's earned considerable press and lengthy features in national media. There are four main stores in Portland, two in Seattle and one in New York (more expansion forthcoming). 

Well, the mission was certainly laudable and earned considerable praise from across the coffee world. Until now. Todd Carmichael of Esquire Magazine published a scathing article about Stumptown entitled "Stumptown Sold Out." He includes no concrete or details for his comments, but asserts, "Duane Sorenson, the founder of Stumptown, the Che Guevara of the rock-star barista movement, sold his life's work to the highest bidder." 

Carmichael goes on to assert that those same founding principles that made Stumptown so unique in the first place will quickly fade away, "Will it continue its role as the leader of all that is hip? If the past is any indication, there's no hope. Chances are, it will be another in a long history of promising roasters sold and promptly suffocated by corporate America, like Torrefazione Italia, Seattle's Best, and Green Mountain, to name just a few."

When pressed on his lack of sources on Twitter, Carmichael cited "sale docs" as evidence but did not provide them. Stumptown later asserted that the company remains under the control of Sorenson after being dogged by persistent rumors. 

We'll have to wait and see how this develops. What do you think of Carmichael's comments? 


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