In tough times, an outdoor diner finds its niche
Story and photos by Drew Myron
Never made coffee. Nearly no food experience. A global health crisis.
This is not the recipe for success.
Against all odds and timing, Pour Girls is experiencing unexpected achievement.
What began as a coffee cart on a struggling corner lot has turned into a bustling enterprise that, even in a pandemic, is seeing record sales.
“I would have never thought we’d be busy during this, but it’s just been getting busier on a daily basis,” says Mellissa Halseth, owner and founder of Pour Girls Espresso & Eats in Odell. “Sales are flying through the roof. It’s a really busy time right now.”
Mellissa barely finishes her thought when her sidekick, Manager Tiffany Berquist, announces another record day of sales.
“That’s another bonus,” Mellissa says. “Every time we hit a new record, the girls get a bonus. That’s the fourth time this week.”
Its quick success for a small business that opened just more than a year ago with humble aspirations.
“I thought Odell could really use a place like us,” Mellissa says. “When we opened, we thought it would be mostly coffee.”
Demand changed the plan. The town has no coffee shop, and aside from Mexican restaurants, there are no food options. Pour Girls quickly filled the gap by offering breakfast, lunch, and coffee drinks.
Inside the cozy trailer, a grill sizzles with bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs, turkey club sandwiches, and more.
The crew serves up to 100 meals a day.
I wanted something to do, and I thought I’d be running a little coffee shop, but it’s so much more than that,” Mellissa says.
Though she has no background in food service, Mellissa has plenty of business training. She has spent most of her life in Hood River, working in mortgage lending, title work, and managing the port marina.
A few years ago, Mellissa and her husband, Ben, started Halseth Excavating. He runs daily operations and she maintains the behind-the-scenes part of the business.
The couple lives in Parkdale and has been married for 19 years. Now, the two are both entrepreneurs.
“Never in my life did I think I’d be self-employed and never double self-employed,” Mellissa says. “It’s a lot of work, but I love it.”
Located on Odell’s main street, Pour Girls—“also Poor Girls,” jokes Mellissa— is a frequent stop for those working in nearby industrial businesses, fruit processing plants, and schools.
Bordered on one side with shade trees and grass, Pour Girls offers picnic tables, umbrellas, and plenty of space—amenities especially valuable in these days of distancing.
“There’s no other place in Odell to sit outside and enjoy a meal,” Mellissa says. “One of my greatest joys is seeing people outside, eating, and visiting.”
“The community vibe sets us apart,” says Tiffany, who grew up in Parkdale and came to Pour Girls with experience in food service at Mt. Hood Meadows.
She joined the business and quickly rose to the manager.
Open six days a week, Pour Girls hums with six employees and a focus that emphasizes both the professional and personal.
“It’s my job as part of the community to create good employees and instill good work ethics and skills,” Mellissa says.
“I really love it here,” says Tiffany, who has learned the business of payroll forecasts, food ordering, and customer relations. “I started with one day a week, then six days. I thought it would just be a summer job, but I’ve really fallen in love with this place. It’s more than just a job to me.”
And it’s more than coffee to loyal customers.
“It’s close, they’re friendly and it’s a great spot to get up to speed on all the Odell happenings,” says Garin Buckles, owner of Champion Tool Storage.
He favors Pour Girls scones and sandwiches and stops nearly every day on his way to work.
“And my dog loves it there because she gets dog treats,” he says.
Lindsy Weseman of Parkdale works at Hood River High School and frequently treats her daughters to lunch.
“They enjoy getting the hot dog meal and a smoothie, and I always get a turkey sandwich,” she says. “I also really enjoy their chai tea lattes.”
Mellissa’s dogged effort has earned respect from those who have seen a succession of business come and go at the same spot. Right away, Mellissa went to work clearing the lot, trimming trees, pulling weeds, and creating a fresh seating area. She partnered with local schools to offer prizes, such as snow cones and Italian sodas, for student reading programs.
“Mellissa is kind, friendly, and determined,” Lindsy says. “She works hard, and that shows in her business. She is also willing to work with and for the community, and that is something I really appreciate.”
Grateful for the support and mindful of the work it takes to keep going, Mellissa can hardly believe the change just one year can bring.
“I had never made coffee until the first day we opened,” she says with a laugh. “Now, I dream of it.”
Pour Girls Espresso & Eats is at 3665 Atkinson Drive in Odell. Summer hours are Monday through Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 6 to 11 a.m.; closed Sundays. There are reduced hours in fall/winter. Call ahead orders at (541) 806-0954. Reach Pour Girls by email.