Now that it’s all official and out in the open, we’re raising our mugs to Billy Wilson about the new beginning he embarks on today. Yesterday was Billy’s last day at the Albina Press, the Portland cafe where he has worked since the company’s inception three-and-a-half years ago. Billy’s work and commitment at the Press secured the cafe a legitimacy that is hard for unknown cafes to assume, and through his leadership with Press owner Kevin Fuller, the cafe has become not only one of the best in Portland, but the best I’ve visited in the world.
I first met Billy at the Western Regional at Nascore in 2002, and as I told him when we had beers yesterday afternoon to celebrate his last day at the Press, he sure has changed and grown a lot in the past six years. We all have. But I think Billy’s kind of a special circumstance, or at least that’s the way I personally feel about him. At a young age, he got hooked on this crazy coffee community, as well as barista competitions. He got his feet wet working under Phuong Tran at Lava Java, moved on the work at Stumptown and at Crema, and then finally found a great fit at the Albina Press.
Billy has taken second, third (twice) and fourth places at the United States Barista Championship, and has earned back-to-back 1st place trophies at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition. He’s a great competitor and understands the work, dedication, and generosity of spirit it takes to earn the respect of your fellow baristas.
As Billy moves on to work at Coffeehouse NW, which is a geekdom in Portland for coffee nerds if there ever was one, where he’ll save his tip money and keep planning the opening of his new cafe (he intends to call it simply BARISTA), it’ll be nice to see him become more and more energized by his bright future. I know he’ll be looking to his friends in the industry for advice and guidance. Here’s a pic I snagged from Jon Lewis’ blog of Billy and Jon chillin at the new Albina Press location:
By beer three yesterday, I was enthusiastically chatting Billy up about how great it would be for him to take a few weeks to travel around Europe visiting and hopefully pulling bar shifts at cafes where he can learn something, and impart some knowledge, too. He really wants to do it, and wonders if anyone would host him for a few days — I think he has so much to gain by visiting young entrepreneurs like Tim and Anne and Klaus and James and Lene and Imma and Heili and Ulrika. And as any new business owner knows, he should do this travel before he’s got his own cafe to worry about…
So stop by and say hi and congrats to Billy at Coffeehouse NW when you have a chance. And be sure to order a ristretto.