Civic Story: Michael and Marissa Klennert
This is our Civic Story
My name is Marissa and along with Michael and Benita, I’ve co-founded a small but powerful coffee roasting company, Civic Roasters. Part of our mission is to not only make and sell great tasting and quality coffee, but to utilize our coffee and future coffee shops to bridge and connect people, neighborhoods, and cities where we are living and working in. We know that in order to do this, we have to listen to people’s stories, and what better way to set the stage than to share our stories here too. This is only a snippet of our story— thanks for letting us share it with you.
When I met Michael (my now husband and co-founder of Civic Roasters), he was a passionate 20-year-old in college, seeking to harness faith, justice, and people into something tangible. We could spend hours talking late into the night about the intersection of justice, poverty, race, class, and Jesus. Where and how did it all fit in together and what were we to do about it?
When people have described Michael to me, the two words that always jump to the top of the list are calm and open. He has a way of befriending almost everyone—especially those that may be harder to enter into relationship with. He does it not because he has a savior complex, but because I think he can see the pain they carry that is masked by an outwardly appearance of defensiveness or isolation, making it easy for people to dismiss them. During college and after, Michael worked at our university café—a place geared towards professors as well as families of college students who would pass through before an event or parents' weekend. This same establishment was also host to various citizens in our community who found themselves homeless, as our school was located in Parkland, which is officially unincorporated area of Tacoma While others felt uncomfortable by the sometimes-loitering nature of these folks, Michael could start up a conversation with them, learn their story and greet them on the streets whenever he saw them. These interactions, along with many others, became a catalyst for his desire to use his privilege, knowledge, and connections to give back to a community working in a system that just didn’t work for everyone.
I was challenged one summer to take part in a summer program with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, where we would move to Portland, OR, live in intentional community, volunteer alongside non-profits and businesses that were impacting the city and learn about parts of the community that people didn’t like to talk about. As I accepted this challenge, I had no idea how these short 6 weeks would shape the trajectory of my life. I spent the long hot summers days living and volunteering in the Parkrose neighborhood at a summer program for kids. We played games, read stories and got to know heartbreaking stories of children from broken and hurting home lives—vastly different from the one I experienced growing up. Leaving Portland that summer, I knew I wasn’t done there—this city had more to give to me, and I had much more to offer it. Fast forward to four years later, Michael and I had been married and were living in Seattle where I worked at a coffee shop (who would have guessed) and at night worked for a college ministry at Seattle University, while Michael looked into the four gray walls of his cubical in downtown Seattle, knowing that it wasn’t his landing spot. At the end of that year, our life opened up and we had the freedom to choose to either stay in the Seattle area, or move on. Ultimately the itch to get to Portland won, and we packed our bags and moved to the city where Michael had grown up most of his life and where I grew up over the course of six summer weeks.
Portland is widely known as the whitest major city in the US. It has a devastating history of racism, gentrification and brokenness. As we learn more about this city that we now call home, we are not negligent of the ways that we can so easily continue the status quo and fall prey to the comfortable life that beckons us. We hope that through our efforts of getting to know our own neighbors and city, along with our vision of Civic, we can leave this place a bit more beautiful.
If you are interested in partnering with us, we’d love to connect with you. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about coffee education, partnerships and catering for your local events.