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Climbing on up: Ladder opens drive-thru coffee shop

Thu., Nov. 9, 2017, 10:29 a.m.

Ladder, the Spokane coffee shop that got its start in a barista’s yard, has opened a drive-thru.

Husband-and-wife Aaron and Katie Rivkin launched the business Monday. A grand-opening celebration is slated for Saturday with half-off all drinks. Ladder will also be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, or two hours longer than its regular weekend hours.

Its slogan is “Drink good coffee.”

Ladder serves coffee from specialty roasters around the region and rest of the country, such as Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel, Roast House, Evans Brothers, Augie’s and Ritual. The organic syrups it uses come from Holy Kakow in Portland.

Ladder also offers its own label in partnership with Indaba, where co-owner and barista Aaron Rivkin worked when he first moved to town.

“We just want to be an asset to the community,” he said.

He and his wife moved to Spokane last year from Arizona. He grew up in the metro Phoenix area. She’s from Oakesdale, about 50 miles south of Spokane. They recently had their first child, a boy, Silas, now 2 months old.

Volunteers helped the family clean up and give a fresh coat of paint to the new drive-thru coffee shop before it officially opened Nov. 6. The spot, tucked into one end of the Fairwood Shopping Center in North Spokane, had been empty for a few months before they took over.

It’s just a drive-thru with a couple of outdoor tables for now. Come spring, however, the Rivkins plan to add covered seating and “a laptop bar,” where people can work or study, as well as additional seating.

Ladder will also continue to host pop-ups, offer catering for events and save money to start fulfilling its mission: giving people with criminal convictions second chances.

The coffee industry, Aaron Rivkin said, was where he found his. The self-described “two-time felon” has worked in coffee for “like 10 years.” After doing time and sobering up, he found it wasn’t easy to land a job with a record. “It was the coffee industry that gave me a second chance,” he said.

Now he wants to give people who need a fresh start a place to gain work experience and job and life skills.

“They don’t have a ladder to climb,” he said. “We want to give them ladders to climb.”

That’s where the name of the coffee shop comes from. It is, he said, about climbing the rungs of life and reaching end goals.

The Rivkins are still in the process of pursuing their own. The couple began holding Saturday morning coffee klatches at their home in Spokane’s Five Mile neighborhood in July to start building buzz for a brick-and-mortar location and get the word out about their mission.

For now, Ladder remains a partnership between just four people: the Rivkins and another couple, Mark and Kalyee Cramm, who are their friends from church and assist with pop-ups, events and catering. But they’re all hoping to be able to hire one or two people within the year.

“We still want to hire, train and send,” Aaron Rifkin said. By “send” he said he means dispatch people into the community to start businesses of their own. At Ladder, he said, “We want teach people to write business plans to open up coffee shops.”

Other community service activities are planned, too. This month, they plan to hold a sock drive for Spokane’s homeless.

“I’ve been in those people’s shoes,” said Aaron Rivkin, noting he spent time couch-surfing in Arizona while he was in transition. “Everybody needs a pair of fresh socks.”

Customers who bring in a new pair or package of socks this month will receive a drink discount, he said.

Other ideas in the works are a blanket drive and passing out coffee and doughnuts to people on the streets in downtown Spokane, Katie Rivkin said.

Ladder sells chai from Spokane’s Mandala Chai Co.

Look, also, for specialty drinks such as a lavender-white chocolate mocha, pumpkin spice latte and the Dale, a mixture of espresso, Sprite, organic cardamom syrup and cinnamon.

It’s one of what the Rivkins are calling “coffee cocktails.” Expect more creative combinations like it later on.