Proud Mary Owner Nolan Hirte has announced he is opening Proud Mary’s in Portland, Oregon in the United States – and he’s moving the family there too.
The Proud Mary Founder says one of the reasons for opening Proud Mary in Portland is because of Melbourne’s saturated café market.
“One of the things that keeps us going is making a difference, having an impact, educating and challenging ourselves, and it’s becoming harder to do in Melbourne due to how saturated our café model has become. We’re still relevant in a competitive environment, but rather reinvent ourselves here we thought why not take what we know really well to a new area where we don’t yet exist,” Nolan says.
With news of Nolan’s grand plans circulating this week, Nolan says he’s definitely “ruffled a few feathers” in the US, but insists he’ll be there to help develop the market, not overtake it.
“I love the US and I love Portland, but there’s clearly a difference between Australia and the US. The only people who will get their knickers in a knot about us moving in are those who haven’t been here to Australia to understand what our café culture is like,” he says. “I just think the US coffee shop model is less guided towards customers than Australia’s model. What we provide here in Australia is almost a restaurant-like business with specialty coffee attached. It’s not unique to Melbourne but it will be over there.”
Nolan says the other reason for selecting Portland as Proud Mary’s – and his – new home, was because of the city’s history of building genuine products.
“Portland fits our brand well. It’s where lots of authentic brands originate from, such as Nike and Stumptown. I didn’t want to go straight to New York or Los Angeles. I like the community and grassroots feel that Portland has, and I think the audience is right too.”
Nolan plans to move his family over to Portland, enrol his child in a local school, and commit to living there for the next one to two years.
“I’m excited for the change. I’m looking forwarding to exploring and moving in. While I’m away we’ll have excellent management of Proud Mary’s here in Melbourne,” he says.
The new Portland site will be located in North East Alberta Street in a 270-square-metre warehouse, and Nolan is determined to create “the best café on the planet”. To do that, he says there are two things he can guarantee Portland residents:
1. Quality food.
“If you have a solid interest in food I can guarantee there will be a line out the door wanting to get in and eat. There’s a big population there and demand for quality food is high. I’m not the sort of guy to open a 200-seater venue, I like to keep things intimate so I’m aiming for 80 to 90 seats,” Nolan says.
2. A welcoming environment.
“The weather in Portland is cold and rainy. Lots of people tend to wait in the rain to get into shops and I have ample the space I need, so I will be creating a comfortable space and shelter for customers to wait. It’ll have the warmth of Aunty Peg’s, be interesting and welcoming,” he says.
To begin, Nolan will serve Proud Mary’s trademark quality coffee roasted nearby at an off-site roasting house. No wholesale will be available at first, but it is the long-term goal.
Nolan is excited to introduce iconic Aussie products such as the flat white and smashed avocado, and Proud Mary’s own cold coffee in a can, to Portland residents, but is mindful of adding an American slant on things.
“I want to pay respect to the locals and cater to the market but it’s a great opportunity for us to show the US what we can do, and in turn they’ll teach us things we can bring back and adapt to the Australian market,” he says.
Nolan will get the keys to the new site in November, and expects to have Proud Mary Portland up and running in early 2017.
He even has his eyes on other US towns to eventually develop Proud Mary-sibling venues down the track, including Austin, Texas.
“For the time being, I know we can make a unique impact in Portland, and I’m excited about it and changing things up a little,” he says. “We’re going to be loud, colourful and extravagant, just like we always are.”