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Pop-up ‘Ladder Coffee and Toast’ serves fresh brews, fresh starts

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 14, 2017, 9:39 p.m.

There are no prices on the menu at this pop-up.

That’s because, at this stage, Ladder Coffee and Toast is more of a dream and experience than a business.

But the Spokane barista behind it, along with his partners, can’t wait to share the concept. So they’ve been hosting a coffee klatch Saturday mornings at a home in the Five Mile neighborhood.

Aaron Rivkin, 26, and his wife, Katie, 23, began opening their home – their yard, really – to build buzz for what they’re hoping becomes a brick-and-mortar location with a mission. Their dream is to open a coffee shop that offers people second chances.

“The reason I want to open a cafe is because of my personal past,” said Rivkin, a self-described “two-time felon,” who has worked in the coffee industry for “like 10 years.” When he was 18, he said, “I stole from my family and they called the cops on me, basically, is what happened.”

After doing time and sobering up, he found it wasn’t easy to land a job with a criminal record. “It was the coffee industry that gave me a second chance,” he said.

Now, he wants to give others with felony convictions – and folks 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.”

While the couple have been working on raising money to formally launch the endeavor, they’ve been inviting people over for coffee and toast – and the chance to share their plans.

“We really want to make a difference in Spokane,” said Aaron Rivkin, who’s been spreading word about the pop-up coffee klatch on Facebook. “We’re trying to build this organically, nothing formal. We want to build a brand around community.

“We’re also in a place of wanting to build up some capital. We’re hoping investors might take notice.”

The Rivkins 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 just had their first child.

They began hosting the pop-up coffee klatch in mid-July and have since partnered with another young couple. They met and became friends with Mark and Kalyee Cramm, both 22, through church.

Together, they’re calling their Saturday morning experience Ladder Coffee and Toast, which is also what the couples plan to call their future coffee shop. The name is about climbing the rungs of life and reaching end goals.

The two couples are hoping to have enough money to open a brick-and-mortar store next year.

Meantime, they’re serving espresso drinks, pastries, avocado toast and toast with jam or Nutella and bananas on bread they buy from Central Food. They’re inviting guests over to play lawn games, too – corn hole and bocce ball for now. (They’d like to get Ladderball, too.) Events are kid- and dog-friendly.

About 25 people came to the first event, said Aaron Rivkin, whose résumé includes a stint at Indaba Coffee Roasters in Spokane. More recently, about 85 people have been dropping by.

But, at this point, Ladder Coffee and Toast isn’t a business nor a nonprofit. The hosts aren’t asking for donations. Coffee and toast don’t come with price tags. “Legally, we can’t charge anything or even suggest a price,” Aaron Rivkin said.

That hasn’t stopped people from listening to their plans and giving money anyway – anywhere from a dollar to $100 so far.

The couples are planning to keep hosting their Ladder Coffee and Toast pop-ups “until at least the first snowfall,” Aaron Rivkin said – and maybe even beyond that. They’ve already talked about moving the event indoors when winter arrives.


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