Jubilee Hall PDX serves up coffee and job security

Khupsamlian Khaute, founder of Jubilee Hall PDX poses for the camera on opening day
Kaia Eikenberry / The Mossy Log

Newly opened coffee shop focuses on providing job finding skills for Portland immigrants

On the corner of NE 122nd and E Burnside, with a Trimet Max stop about 20 feet from the front doors, is an up-and-coming nonprofit coffee shop with a purpose. Jubilee Hall PDX’s mission is to create “a safe space for refugees and immigrants to integrate and elevate confidence.” 

The coffee shop employs immigrants and refugees new to the Portland area. They provide on-the-job skills and language training as well as outside assistance,  helping refugees and immigrants avoid the kind of hardships that founder Khupsamlian Khaute experienced upon his arrival to the United States. 

With no local job experience and difficulty speaking English confidently, Khaute had trouble finding a secure job when he moved to Portland. Eventually, he found work at a coffee shop, which he looks back on as a pivotal moment. Although it was overwhelming at first, the position helped him learn valuable job skills and gave him the opportunity to practice his English daily in a busy environment. 

Now, years later, he is partnered with Jesse Prichard and Christina Horrigan, two other individuals who are passionate about refugee and immigrant services, to recreate his experience in a purposeful and refined manner. Jubilee Hall PDX is the result.

I first visited the shop on a snowy Sunday morning. Walking inside, I was immediately greeted by the warm aromas of coffee and the gentle gurgling noise of an espresso machine. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was inside. Decorated with comfy seating areas, large tables (perfect for group study sessions, I might add), and a coffee bar with stools, it is easy to imagine the shop filled with easy conversations and happy people. I could see the founders’ commitment to community and accessibility in the little details, as well: children’s toys and books lining a wall, an all-user restroom, and even their location in the heart of a residential area. 

Despite their prime location and warm atmosphere, it was nice and quiet this early in the morning. I settled down at a window-side table, ordered a hot chai latte with soy milk, and had a conversation with the employee on duty about Jubilee Hall’s future collaborations and business ventures. 

During our brief conversation, I was struck by how committed Jubilee Hall is to doing business locally. They make their own chai, which they provide to other coffee shops in the area. They also plan on collaborating with HeyDay Donuts, a local donut company whose slogan is “bridging culture + community 1 doughnut at a time.”

The second time I visited Jubilee Hall was during their grand opening on March 4. Packed with customers from wall to wall, it was a challenge to simply get through the door. Despite the change of atmosphere, though, their role as a community space was just as clear as before. People sat at the coffee bar conversing with the baristas, families with small children could be seen throughout the shop, and the founding members went from group to group to welcome people inside. It is clear that they have already established a reputation as a safe, welcoming place to be.

During one of his many turns around the room, founder Khupsamlian Khaute walked over to me. He was gracious enough to sit down at the bar with me and answer some questions about his experience and Jubilee Hall. 

“It was a really good learning experience,” Khaute told me, about working in a coffee shop when he first arrived in Portland. “After two or three years I look back and I have changed so much, and grown so much.” In reference to his motivation behind Jubilee Hall, he said that, “I realized that it helped me so much that to curate a space like this, specifically for refugees and immigrants, would help them even more.”

Khaute also shared several ways that individuals can get involved with Jubilee Hall PDX and their mission. “The community who are already here…can come and chit chat, get a coffee and even more than that, they can volunteer.” Volunteer mentors spend time in the shop and can step in when there are communication problems with customers. 

He highlighted the need for donations, as well. Once the shop is making a steady profit, they will fully launch their program and welcome in their first batch of trainee employees. It is important that trainees are paid, he said. 

“Even though I spoke English, I wanted to be hidden because I was scared,” he told me. “For them to come out in a space like this, it’s already hard. And, if they have to sacrifice earning money somewhere, it’s even harder.” 

But in a paid position with Jubilee Hall, which also includes job training, cultural learning, and English language training, refugees and immigrants will be well-supported in adjusting to their new environment.

While it may be out of the way for most Lewis & Clark students, I highly recommend visiting Jubilee Hall PDX and supporting their mission. They are open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can also get involved or learn more by visiting their website (www.jubileehallpdx.org) or social media (@jubileehallpdx).

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