Creating something unique is what Ray Peck, and his wife, Diane Weisenberg, wanted when they opened Wind Horse Coffee and Tea in Milwaukie.
They remain true to one-of-a-kind experiences by dreaming up new product ideas and offering extraordinary products in their shop.
Even entering the store is a bit of a surprise. It’s decorated in vibrant southwest design which offers a stark contrast to the sometimes grey Pacific Northwest days.
Exceptional is one way Ray describes his Wind Horse employees. They are all creative, professional people who want to become great baristas, he said.
Part of their training includes making latte art with their java concoctions. It takes at least 15 hours of practice to make the coffee and steamed milk just right to produce the artistic effect.
“Here, we care about each cup being a really good cup of coffee,” said Barista Brandy Von Weller.
Ray and his staff make a connection with most people who enter Wind Horse. If they don’t know someone’s name upon entering, they’re likely to know it before that person leaves.
“I love the buzz of the people who come in here,” Ray said with enthusiasm. “We build community by connecting people to people. We don’t always do that for them, we just create the atmosphere for them to meet.”
Jeff Simmons, is a Milwaukie resident and a regular customer.
“I come here every day,” he said. “I like Ray and all the people who work here. They take pride in their coffee. It’s a little neighborhood coffee bar, and I like supporting the neighborhood – any small business, any local business.”
Gina Clarke, another Milwaukie resident has three reasons to visit Wind Horse often.
“I have to watch my dollars,” she said. “And this is worth my money. It’s the only place I’ll spend my money for coffee.”
She also comes in to chat with the employees. Gina knows the value of friendly relationships; because she works in a customer service job, too.
Her third reason for frequenting the store is the food. She’s tried most items from the pastrami Panini to the peach, pear and apricot smoothie to the fresh baked granola.
Relationships with locals are important to Ray – not just with his customers, but professionally as well.
The coffee beans come from Caffe Umbria, a full service wholesale coffee roaster based in Seattle, Wash. One of their proprietors, Pasquale Madeddu, is a Milwaukie resident and Wind Horse fan.
A house specialty, the Latte Savannah, was named after a barista visiting from St. Paul, Minn. She requested lavender for her vanilla coffee. Ray liked the combination so much that he named the drink after his visitor. She doesn’t know he did that, because she left for Minnesota and hasn’t returned to the shop.
Honey Vanilla Lattes and Latte Dulche are also popular drinks. Another house specialty is the Mocha Cocochinno with chocolate and spices.
Wind Horse tea comes from Portland’s own The Tao of Tea which makes quality, organic loose leaf tea, according to Ray.
Both the breakfast Paninis, known as toasties, and the lunch Paninis are made on Portland’s Grand Central Bakery bread. The rustic Como bread is an Italian-style white bread with a golden, nutty crust that makes any grilled Panini a favorite.
In the summer, real fruit smoothies are a refreshing hit.
Wind Horse has been open since 1999, and Ray previously owned another coffee shop in Milwaukie. His wife, Diane, came up with the unique name of their shop while she was decorating inside.
“I know the name of the shop,” she said. “Wind Horse.”
Ray agreed. He remembered the awe he felt that year as he attended his first St. Paul rodeo when all the horses came out in the arena.
A written synopsis of the couple’s feelings about horses, relationships and coffee sits on the counter to remind employees of their goals.
“ … Many people don’t relate to horses in their everyday lives,” it reads. “But when they see an arresting image of a moving horse, it stirs something ancient in them. Something older and wiser deep inside them that they can’t quite articulate.”
Stop by and find out what it is about Wind Horse Coffee and Tea that makes each person’s experience so meaningful and unforgettable.
Wind Horse Coffee and Tea
Address: 10611 S.E. Main St. in Milwaukie, Oregon
By Cindy Garrison