Co-founders Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann stand outside the first Coffee By Design coffeehouse on Congress Street in Portland, Maine.
30 Years of Extraordinary Coffee and Community Support
Since 1994, Coffee By Design has led the way in bringing impeccably sourced, painstakingly roasted, and lovingly served artisanal coffee to Maine. We’re proud that our commitment to ethical practices, our long history of support for the arts and progressive causes, and the consistently outstanding quality of our coffee have made us an iconic mainstay of the ever-evolving Portland scene—earning us Roast Magazine’s 2020 Roaster of the Year award.
Coffee By Design
History and Timeline
Portland, Maine, is our home, and over the years we have built an enduring network of friends and neighbors, colleagues and connections throughout the city and surrounding community. Mainers and visitors from all walks of life have come together in our coffee houses and through the programs we support and sponsor , finding the common ground for which coffee can be a catalyst.
We have two coffeehouses in Portland, on India St. and Diamond St., all of which serve as welcoming, inclusive community hubs, and a bustling coffee roastery at our Diamond St. location, where beans are roasted-to-order for over 700 wholesale and mail-order customers around the world.
From the very start, we have used our voice as a successful local business to support positive change in Portland and across the globe. More than just a progressive façade, it’s a spirit that guides every decision we make and every action we take—from how we treat our employees to our stringent coffee-buying criteria and the relationships we build with socially responsible coffee bean farmers across three continents Philanthropy is core to our culture, and we work at living our values every day, supporting the local economy via innumerable donations, sponsorships, and volunteer work.
Back in the ’90s we helped jumpstart Portland’s “Buy Local” movement and inaugurated our Rebel Blend Fund—one dollar per pound sold of our Rebel Blend coffee is used to fund art projects which promote social change. And now, as an established company, we take more seriously than ever our responsibility to make a positive impact, with initiatives like our partnership with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, which works towards greater equity and empowerment for women in the global coffee community.
From the day we opened our doors, we have focused on ways to promote economic sustainability at the point of origin, emphasizing long-term relationship building with coffee farmers and co-ops. Through project work in Colombia, Guatemala, India, and Burundi, we demonstrate to coffee-growing communities that we are interested in doing more than just sourcing great coffee—we want to be involved in ways that improve quality of life for all, including future generations.
Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear started Coffee By Design in 1994 with a single store on a then-desolate stretch of Congress St., at a time when the vacancy rate in downtown Portland was 40%, and the city was reeling from the worst effects of recession. Since then, the Portland economy has exploded, evolving hand-in-hand with pioneering businesses like Coffee By Design. Portland has become a vibrant foodie mecca, appearing regularly on top-ten lists of "most livable" cities. Seeing how far we’ve come over the past three decades is head-spinning—our journey seems almost surreal in retrospect!
As it did with so many, the COVID pandemic upended our best-laid plans, but it also helped us reassess our priorities. We put our values into action—retaining staff, continuing our philanthropical efforts, and banding together as a family to get through the toughest times together. In 2023, Alan left the company to pursue other interests, selling his shares to Mary Allen, making Coffee By Design a proudly 100% woman-owned business.
As we continue to recover from COVID disruptions, we also recognize that the pandemic gave us an opportunity to pause, reflect, and identify opportunities for expansion, improvement, and change, while remaining true to our vision and values. Experienced, connected, and innovative, we look forward to seeing what the next 30 years will bring.