Our Story

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Beginnings...

Bison Coffeehouse, Portland's only Native-owned coffee establishment, is the culmination of a journey that Loretta Guzman embarked on almost a decade ago. 

After a bout with cancer that almost proved fatal (she is in full remission now), Loretta conceived of a community space that represented her ancestry  and provided opportunity to showcase native-sourced products.  She slowly raised the funds over several years through the tribal art of beading, a craft Loretta had learned as a young girl. “I just paid for it as I had the money. It took me two years,” she says. Working on apparel projects, large and small, she was finally able to launch her vision in November 2014, rehabbing a 1926 building her father, Gary Guzman, had used as a storage facility for his acclaimed custom motorcycle shop next door. 

Bison Coffeehouse is a family affair through and through. Gary Guzman, whom recently passed away, was instrumental in helping Loretta realize her vision. Her mother is the business's accountant, her niece and nephew are baristas, and her daughter manages the shop. 

In reflecting on her original inspiration, Loretta feels a deep connection to being of service to the Native people in fostering a sense of pride. “In my creation, I wanted a place for Natives to come,” Guzman says. “I wanted to create a positive environment, something they identify with, a place where they can come in and be proud.”she says.

The Bison

The unmistakable presence of the shop's namesake looms on the south wall: a massive mounted bison head stares down upon you as you enter the treasure chest that is Bison Coffeehouse.  In the years previous to opening the shop, Loretta Guzman was battling stage 4b cancer and received a message one night in the way of a dream;  “I dreamt of the bison,” she said. “He kept trying to get closer and closer to me, until he was in my face. I was told by my stepfather that  the bison was my grandfather. He had been praying to my grandparents in the spirit world that I would get better. ” Eventually, Loretta made a dramatic and unprecedented recovery. The bison is symbol of resilience to the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, and has deep personal meaning to Loretta's healing path.  "The bison was our people’s survival, our livelihood,” says Guzman. “I want this place to represent myself and my people—past and present."

“Everything in the shop is very thought out and deliberate. Every piece has different meanings for how they represent our people. It’s us, family, ancestors; it’s who we are.”

Loretta Guzman

A native Portlander and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho, Loretta Guzman is the visionary behind Bison Coffeehouse. Her life's journey meandered down several side roads, including careers a dental technician, a master baker, and a barista, before she eventually created the concept of the business. As Bison Coffeehouse continues to evolve and gain local prominence, Loretta is focusing on expansion to serve local native communities, and is a tireless advocate for causes that are close to her heart. 

Family Photo Album