Steeplejack Brewing Founders Brody Day and Dustin Harder Open Harder Day Coffee Company, With Big Plans for Expansion

The duo is aiming to expand to four Harder Day locations by the end of the year.

Harder Day Coffee Co. (Allison Barr)

You might be familiar with Steeplejack Brewing, known for its iconic location in a 100-year-old church in Northeast Portland. Despite opening in 2020, the brewery found instant success by putting together an award-winning all-women brewing team and opening beautiful pubs in Northeast Portland, Hillsdale and Hillsboro in just two short years. Now, founders Brody Day and Dustin Harder have brewed up a coffee roasting business.

On March 14, Day and Harder opened Harder Day Coffee Company at 4229 SE Woodstock Blvd. The location is pushed back from the street in a clean white garage behind roll-up doors with a large counter bar, handmade beer hall-style tables, and a great quiet room with library reading lamps.

The cafe and roastery is the first of what will likely be four Harder Day Coffee locations to open up this year, including locations in Southwest Portland and Beaverton. There’s even a third business coming that’ll provide baked goods for all the Harder Day and Steeplejack locations, and feature its own shared taproom, cafe and food truck pod.

This might seem wildly ambitious, but big moves have seemingly always been part of Harder and Day’s plan.

The two met and enjoyed their first craft beers and coffees together back in 1998 while attending the University of California, Santa Cruz. Over the years, Day found himself diving into beer and homebrewing, while Harder nerded out more over coffee roasting and cupping. When they opened Steeplejack Brewing in June 2020, they opened doors at 7 am for coffee and pastry service, but those early morning hours were phased out as the brewery demanded full focus.

Still eager to pursue coffee, Harder and Day were ready to try again in 2023 by purchasing an existing coffee brand with multiple locations, but that never materialized. Instead, they took over the lease and purchased the assets of the Esperanza Trading Company cafe, home to Reforma Coffee Roasters, the in-house coffee of Angel Medina’s República & Co. hospitality group. Harder Day Coffee quietly opened last month.

Esperanza’s head roaster, Ren Hua, is now working with Harder Day on the longer-term challenge to dial in a specialty house roast that can be light enough for drip but with the medium acidity to work in espresso.

“There is a big difference between enjoying coffee and knowing how to run great cafes and experiences,” Day says. “I am good with construction, I am good with finances, and appreciating things. I am not great at the nuances of operations. It’s important to know what my skill set is and then hire a really great team behind me.”

Day believes there are two kinds of coffee shops: the ones where extreme coffee nerdery dominates and can even become intimidating, and the watered-down experience that operates as a caffeine delivery vehicle. Harder Day’s goal is to strike a balance between comfortable and accessible neighborhood shops and really outstanding coffee that is approachable.

“My passion is cycling, and coffee is a big part of [Harder Day’s] culture,” Harder says. “Stopping to get a latte and a croissant is an important part of the ride. It’s time to catch up with friends. We want every customer to be blown away by the quality of the coffee and the welcoming community-tailored experience in our spaces.”

Each Harder Day location will offer baked goods, craft sodas, non-alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, as well as Steeplejack Brewing beers on draft and cans to go. The current Woodstock location is awaiting a liquor license to serve beer and natural wines, and will extend hours into the evenings and eventually add a small cocktail and food menu, along with outdoor seating and fire pits.

Harder Day and Steeplejack will continue to expand together. The next Steeplejack Brewing location is scheduled to open in late summer or fall 2024 in the former Bank of America branch at 3757 SE Hawthorne Blvd. There will be food trucks, along with a Harder Day Coffee bar and bakery counter within the taproom. After that? Sky’s still the limit.

“We are always looking at new opportunities,” Day says, “whether it’s a distillery or other ways of leaning further into the food and beverage scene.”

GO: Harder Day Coffee Company, 4229 SE Woodstock Blvd., 971-386-2165. 7 am–3 pm daily.

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