Modern and minimal, but imbued with warm hospitality, Prince Coffee’s second location is housed on the ground floor of our very own Schoolhouse factory and headquarters. The new café opened after the completion of a brief but extensive renovation led by Prince Coffee Founder Katie Prinsen and Schoolhouse Founder & CEO Brian Faherty, among others. From subtle brass detailing to carefully curated lighting, custom wood paneling and an abundance of light, there’s plenty to love about their new location. Known not only for their good coffee, Prince has become a local favorite for their fresh-made stroopwafels, a Dutch treat made from pressing two thin waffles together and filling it with “stroop,” a buttery, caramel filling that rhymes with “dope.”
One of the most rewarding parts of being a lighting manufacturer is seeing our finished fixtures be a part of beautiful and thoughtfully designed spaces. But it goes beyond that. "Aesthetically, the remodeled space is a great collaboration between Prince and Schoolhouse, but the partnership is deeper than that," says Schoolhouse President Sara Fritsch, "we embraced the opportunity to rethink what success could look like for the space. Together with Prince, Schoolhouse is thrilled to welcome customers into our beloved headquarters for coffee." Prince's values on quality and hospitality mirror our own, and we are grateful to have their bright and creative energy in the building. Below, we caught up with Katie to talk about her thoughts on the industry, love for stroopwafels, and the inspiration behind her latest shop.
Tell us a bit about your background – how did you get into the coffee industry?
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by coffee. I got my first job as a barista when I was 16 and had coffee jobs on and off throughout college. I graduated with a degree in Business and double minored in Marketing and Art. I always found a lot of joy being behind the espresso bar, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I decided I wanted to make specialty coffee my career. I got a job at my favorite café in Portland and really learned a lot during my time there.”
How did your company get started?
“In 2014, I went to New Zealand and was so inspired by the coffee scene there. I knew I had to open a shop of my own. It became an obsession of mine really, coming up with concepts and looking for spaces around Portland where I could open. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of retail space available, and I looked for over two years before finally finding our little space in the Kenton neighborhood. My dad and I built a coffee cart for the space, we rolled it in, and a couple weeks later I was open. It was a very humble beginning, but I’m really grateful for the way this company started.”
What was the inspiration behind the name?
“I tried to think of a clever name for a long time and finally decided to use my last name. I grew up spending summers in the Netherlands with my dad’s family, and ‘Prinsen’ in Dutch is plural for ‘Prince.’ So, I figured I would make it easy for everyone and call it 'Prince Coffee.'”
Was there a specific design vision from the start or did it come together organically?
“I always take note of what makes me feel good when I’m in a room. Usually, it comes down to a space that is clean, tastefully simple, but not too bare. I want people to feel good when they visit my shop, so I try to work with a few key rules when designing each space. Overall, I make sure each location feels bright, timeless, and inviting. Sticking to these guidelines helps me create a space that works well for the building while staying true to Prince’s aesthetic.”
How did you differentiate yourself in a city as coffee-saturated as Portland?
“It’s pretty hard to stand out in a city full of amazing cafés. For me, the golden rule is: have great service and great product. Those two things will keep your customers happy and coming back for more. I wanted our company to offer something unique as well. So, we make fresh stroopwafels daily and carry coffee from our three favorite roasters here in Portland.”
Alongside coffee, you’ve also started selling food at your shop. What inspired the menu?
“People want something a little more substantial than just a pastry to get them going in the morning. We strive to offer food that is both simple and local. My good friend Amy runs the food program and makes most things in-house for us, including our granola and seasonal preserves. It’s a pretty great addition to just offering coffee and people seem to really enjoy it.”
What’s the most difficult aspect of owning your own business? Any advice you could give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
“That’s a difficult question to answer simply! I would say two major things. First, when you own your own business, there are no days that you can just turn your mind off from thinking about your business. I’ve gotten way better at forcing myself to take days off from the shops, but I really think about the business all the time! The second thing is that when I started the company, I naively thought, ‘work really hard for a few years and reap the benefits forever.’ Now, I see that as long as I want my company to remain successful and relevant, I’ll always have to put in work. While this is sometimes difficult to do, it’s also really fulfilling. It has been wonderful to see my staff grow, take on the vision of what Prince is, and continue to cultivate who we are.”
What do you see on the horizon for Prince?
“I could see Prince having one more location, but I want it to be a really special one, so I am holding off for the perfect spot. I have loved partnering with Schoolhouse, and I think it would be pretty cool to partner with another Portland company that we love. All just dreams for now though!”