In the 10 years since he graduated from Grant High School, Nasir Najieb has earned his bachelor's and master's degrees, started a family and gone from barista to business owner.
It's the sort of career achievement that takes most people 20 years, but for Najieb, it's just the beginning.
"I want to continue to develop this show and, eventually, open another," Najieb says. "I'm a pretty confident person and it's never bothered me to take a chance."
Opening a coffee shop on a somewhat hidden corner off Prescott Street and 14th Avenue might be considered risky to some entrepreneurs. But for Najieb, who grew up in the area and realized Prescott's potential, opening Caffé Bean was a matter of common sense.
"There's not a lot on Prescott yet," Najieb says. "This building is the main attraction."
Recently revamped in hip shades of cranberry, olive and black, the building that houses Najieb's upscale cafe also counts a barbershop, a beauty salon, one nonprofit and a new bar, Tiga, that won rave reviews from The Portland Tribune in early May. The city paper praised Tiga's collision of bar/coffee house and said the new venture "successfully blend(s) the old and new worlds of this rapidly changing neighborhood."
Bringing in the new while catering to the old is something Najieb – a theater arts major who has appeared in commercials and plays, as well as an MBA – tries to do.
"I didn't want to just put anything in this space," Najieb says. "I worked closely with the designer and picked everything I wanted. I didn't want this to be like everyone else in Portland."
Indeed, if you're used to the typical disarray of most Portland coffee shops, Caffé Bean will hit you like a cool breeze after a muggy August day. Gone are the haphazard bulletin boards. In their places is a long, cool chalkboard with ample space for kids and adults to leave messages or draw some loopy daisies. The sturdy tables and open space makes for a welcoming, but not stifling, environment; and the theater arts major in Najieb comes out on the walls, where a giant portrait of Audrey Hepburn holds court.
"I wanted it to have a European feel," Najieb says. "To be sort of upscale ... but to still be a place for the community, where parents feel welcome to bring their kids."
In his personal life, Najieb is trying to find a balance between work and family. He stays at Caffé Bean as long as necessary, but always makes time for his wife, LaDonna; his 15-year-old stepson D'Andre; and his new baby boy, Isaac, who is still about three months shy of his first birthday.
"I work hard to create a good life for my family," Najieb says.
As a Black man growing up in Portland, Najieb says he had fewer opportunities, but that he always saw life as a series of events and choices.
"You can go one way or another and you have to decide what you want from life," Najieb says.
Now that he helps mentor D'Andre and other young men in the area, Najieb tries to instill the values that made him the successful business owner he is today.
"I refused to settle," he says. "And I want other young men to know that, you can see all the things that are against you and view them, not as problems, but as opportunities to learn. ... It's not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort and no one is going to give it to you for free, but as long as you work hard and don't sell out, don't ever sell out your integrity, you'll get what you want."