There’s been a lot of press and a lot of speculation about Stumptown’s independence and financial status, owing to some blogs, some reporting, and a letter from the founder himself. I wanted to add my two cents, since I feel I have a unqiue – though by no means insider – perspective on the matter.

First, full disclosure. I was Stumptown’s first employee. I worked closely with Duane in the early years, eventually parting ways to start a web design company with my future wife. Stumptown was our first client, and they’ve been our client ever since. We’ve been with them through several website designs, through thick and thin.

Like I said, I can’t comment on the speculation. I have learned that they found an investor, and that they have a bigger budget now to do the things they want to do.

Duane has always had big, long term vision. I haven’t always understood it, but as with many visionaries, his wild ideas usually work out. And he has changed less than you might imagine. (Basically, he has a beard now.) I had a reliable job with health coverage when he started Stumptown, and I wasn’t entirely sure he could make a hole-in-the-wall roastery work way out in Southeast Portland. I figured he could. Clearly, he did.

I will speak to what I know. Stumptown could hire some big fancy New York web design firm, full of people who ate at “fancy restaurants” and “wore suits” and didn’t “smell funny.” They could behave as if they were “selling out.”

But that isn’t the case. We’ve been in meetings with the Stumptown crew, and I can tell you it’s the same locals we’ve always worked with, in the same neighborhood. And I’m happy to report that they’re working with the same small, scrappy Southeast Portland independent web design firm they always have.

As far as I can tell, the only thing that’s changed in the past few months is that they can finally afford to move forward with this project that we’ve all been excited about for a year now. Nothing else has changed.

Over the past week or two we’ve been to all of the local Portland cafes to get a perspective to help in our redesign efforts and once again, I’m struck by how many of these people worked behind the bar with me ten years ago. The same people, the same smiling faces, making coffee that’s better than it’s ever tasted before. They all seem excited to know that Stumptown will be able to get even better and that the family will continue to grow.

Duane Sorenson is a good guy, with as much compassion, vision, and integrity as anyone I’ve ever known. I can’t see into the future, but I believe that his decisions will turn out to be good ones.

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