Sneakers and menu inside Deadstock Coffee. Camden Benesh/PSU Vanguard

Snob-free coffee?

Deadstock’s operations manager on inspiration, coffee aesthetics and small business

Step into Deadstock Coffee, located on 403 NW Couch Street, and your view of coffee shops might be changed. With its snazzy personality and atmosphere of creativity, Deadstock sets itself apart from other, more traditional shops in the coffee mecca that is Portland, Oregon. Deadstock showcases rare footwear and popping art in a venue that feels like a creative workspace. With its in-house roasted coffee, the shop serves brews to match the vibe—so even if you roll up with Crocs and socks on, know you are in for a damn good cup of coffee. 


A self-described snob-free coffee zone with a barbershop feel, Deadstock actively reimagines what coffee shops should be like, with sneaker latte art and catchy roast names such as Fresh Prince. Deadstock keeps a strong community focus, building mutually beneficial relationships with other small businesses, recently collaborating with ice cream shop Kate’s Ice Cream and matcha specialist Teabar. 


This week, Vanguard sat down with Deadstock’s Operations Manager, Nalani McFadden, to learn about her work with the company, and what it means to be snob-free. 


Vanguard: What is the origin story behind Deadstock Coffee? 


McFadden: Deadstock began after [founder] Ian [Williams] left Nike and wanted to create a space where he could chill with his homies. After working his way up from a janitor to a footwear developer, he decided to turn his attention towards something more community-oriented. Already involved in the sneaker community, he came to the realization that coffee had a similar unifying force. And so, Deadstock was born!


V: How did you hear about Deadstock, and why did you want to work there?


M: I heard about Deadstock a couple of years ago just through the internet and social media. I was already working in coffee in Portland and was interested in continuing, but found the coffee scene to be super-white. I had a lot of other community work under my belt as well, and [wanted] to keep that going as well. I figured if I was going to work anywhere it should be community-oriented and also super tight. I had an opportunity to do a school-sponsored internship after graduating so I just emailed Ian asking if he wanted help. It took a bit to hear back from him but eventually he called me on graduation day and the rest is history!


V: What does your day-to-day look like as an Operations Manager?


M: I wear a lot of different hats as Ops Manager, so my [day-to-day] can vary quite a bit but I like it that way! I spend weekends on-bar at Deadstock, but during the week I usually tend to admin stuff from Concourse (our new shop). I’ll answer emails, make calls, do interviews, help with catering orders or drink development, attend meetings and whatever else comes up in between. Never a dull moment over here.


V: What’s the inspiration for events like the run club or the latte art throwdown?


M: I think it all just comes back to community. We love to share in our interests with others and it only strengthens our community. Inspiration for a given event usually just comes from someone on our team or a homie that is into something specific and brings it to the group, so it can really be anything. Keep your eyes peeled for the Deadstock Skate Club!


V: A lot of coffee shops aren’t centered around a certain theme like sneakers; why do you think this is?


M: I think a lot of third-wave coffee shops end up falling into a similar sort of aesthetic vocabulary. It’s all very monochrome, clean, quiet, minimal. At Deadstock, we don’t find that we have to sacrifice great aesthetics for a quality product. And why not take the opportunity to show a bit of personality? I think people can sometimes prejudge us and assume that just because our shop looks a certain way that our coffee must not actually be good, that we must be overcompensating for something. Which is goofy, but we just encourage those people to come in and see for themselves.


V: How has the pandemic changed operations within Deadstock?


M: I didn’t work at Deadstock pre-pandemic so it’s hard to say, but we actually experienced quite the boom in May-June of 2020 during the BLM [Black Lives Matter] protests. People being more interested in supporting Black businesses was a huge boost for us and it’s only ever been up since [Deadstock] started.


V: With coffee-tea fusion drinks like the Lebronald Palmer and the Zero Chill, where do you see the menu for coffee going?


M: I think that coffee is a really cool plant with a lot of unused potential! There are so many neat things you can do with it—at all stages of the coffee process—that we are always looking to explore and incorporate into our own menu.


V: What should we be on the lookout for from Deadstock in the future?


M: Stay on the lookout for more exciting brand collabs and community events! We hope to see you there.

Deadstock Coffee banner outside the shop. Camden Benesh/PSU Vanguard