Mary Allen Lindemann
Owner + Chief Creative Director
As Coffee By Design’s owner, founder, and chief creative director, Mary Allen’s role is all-encompassing and includes overall strategy, marketing, personnel management, coffee sourcing, quality and safety control, and serving as company spokesperson, travel agent, and head cheerleader. (“And yes,” she says, “even poets know how to crunch numbers.”) Under Mary Allen’s guidance, CBD continues to learn, grow, and foster new partnerships, while remaining true to its Maine roots and founding commitment to support social change—giving back to the local and international communities to which it is so intimately connected.
Originally from Greenwich, Connecticut, Mary Allen (known as “MAL” by most) started coming to Maine with her family in the ‘70s, to Chebeague Island, where they had a summer home. After attending Bowdoin for a year, she moved on to Brown, where she completed her B.A. in poetry, and embarked on an advertising career in New York, Boston, and Seattle. While in Seattle, in the late 1980s, her life changed after she tried a caffe latte for the first time. Mary Allen’s newfound passion for coffee and her abiding love of New England brought her and her former partner Alan Spear to Portland, Maine, where they founded Coffee By Design in 1994.
Mary Allen is a member of Specialty Coffee Association of America and the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. In Maine, she is a founding member of Women Standing Together, Portland Buy Local, and the First Friday Art Walk. She currently serves on the advisory board of Portland Buy Local and is a past board member of the Downtown Corporation Board. She is past president of Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility and of Portland Buy Local. She has contributed to Specialty Coffee Chronicle and Hospitality News and has been a featured speaker at the Salvation Army Tools for Life Program, Envision Maine Summit, and the Women’s Leadership Conference at Brown University.
A longtime resident of Portland (30-plus years now), Mary Allen lives in an old Victorian house. “It was almost a vanilla box when I moved in. I have splashed it with jewel-tone colors and infused the space with memories of my coffee travels and images of women.” When she’s not working, she pursues her passion for the arts, “whether it be live theater, music, dance, or immersive experience, my calendar is full with event dates, tickets in hand…” She is also very active with organizations that support women’s and immigrant rights. Anything else? “I enjoy dinners out and time in my home surrounded by those whom I love. And I have been told I throw a good party….☺️”
How she likes her coffee: I begin the day with a 12 oz. double-shot soy latte. I order ahead on my way to work and pay so that, as an owner, I am not placed in the queue before customers. I pay to show that I see value in the work we do. This first coffee of the day is both a luxury to begin the working day and a way to informally check standards.
Her favorite thing to do in Portland: One of my favorite things to do is early in the morning, when I take the long route to work and do a circle around the East End. First, the gazebo, the view of Casco Bay Line ferries and Fort Gorges. Then the road down to East End Beach. I park, watch the sunrise, and take photos of the ever-changing water, the islands in the distance, and the sky above. No matter the season or weather, it is peaceful. I am home.
What she finds special about being based in Portland, Maine: There is no place in the world like Portland. Portland possesses a unique spirit celebrating community. Neighbor helping neighbor. A willingness to dream new ideas and not accept “no.” We work together to find creative solutions; we have a deep appreciation of land and sea; we support agriculture and aquaculture through an entrepreneurial lens; and diversity at every level is engrained in Portland’s DNA. I hope as CBD celebrates the recognition we have garnered, both nationally and internationally, that we never lose who we are in our small city by the bay.
Her favorite musical performance: I believe the arts are key to understanding the human experience and are critical to our humanity. Because of this, I appreciate a variety of artforms and artists. I find that as I age, I still enjoy new discoveries but revisit many voices which moved me when young. It is so lovely that words written years ago can hold even deeper meaning now. There are so many I could talk about (hey c’mon, my degree is in poetry and I was a performance artist in my twenties!), but I always like to share the first concert I ever attended and the profound impact of the singer’s words. I was 12 when I went to hear Melanie in 1972 at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park with two of my older sisters. They were off getting into some trouble or other, but I was mesmerized by Melanie’s voice and words. Her song “Beautiful People” became the mantra in my life.