This weekend, venues around Central Oregon are hosting parties to celebrate Pride. Celebrations in honor of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community include a Friday night "Cliché Queer" dance party at Volcanic Theatre Pub on the west side and the Saturday night "Big. Queer. Party." at Open Space on the east side. Right in the middle of all that action, a new, queer-owned coffee shop will be marking its first days in operation; Turtle Island Coffee Shop, located on Oregon Avenue next door to both The Capitol and Wild Rose, opened this week, just in time for Pride.
Co-owners Teh Sanchez and Beth Brady took over the space, once occupied by Bend Mountain Coffee, naming the new shop "Turtle Island" in honor of the indigenous creation story that imagines the human universe created on the back of a turtle.
"In naming this, it's paying respect to all of the nations of this continent," Sanchez told the Source Weekly. The space serves up coffee roasted by Queer Wave Coffee, a queer, indigenous-owned roaster from the Bay Area — part of its overall mission to support the queer community. It's the first establishment of its kind in Bend, the co-owners said, aimed at being a community hub.
"Yeah, it's a coffee shop, but it's actually a space where people can come in and know that they're safe," Sanchez said. "Everyone has the inclusive stickers on their windows – but that doesn't necessarily mean that there's community and safety there; but there will be here. There is. I'm Native, and I'm also Two Spirit. This vision is for our community. We don't have a space. We don't even have a gay bar – which is traditionally where queer people have congregated since forever."
Sanchez and Brady said they found the space by a stroke of luck, as the owner of Bend Mountain Coffee sought someone to take over the space he'd occupied since 2007. For the new owners, its location just steps away from where Barry Washington was shot and killed in 2021, is an important reminder.
"It's important that people know that there's safety. Especially trans folks. Especially people of color," Sanchez said. "Just in front of our business, a young Black man was murdered for hitting on a white woman. It's not something that's 'back in the day.' It's right now – our current existence."
This is the first foray into coffee for both Brady and Sanchez – though both have other experience that has led them in this direction. Brady currently runs food carts, including Dinky Dau and The Pizza Cart, and Sanchez runs Queer By Nature and co-runs Out in the Wild, two programs aimed at supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in outdoor endeavors. Amid an increase in anti-trans legislation and incidents of violence against trans and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, the two are wide-eyed about the visibility of this new venture.
"You have a small, really loud, really hateful minority making so much noise that it's really scared the shit out of people. It's scared me, for sure," Brady said.
"By doing this, it's stepping up in the face of the fear," Sanchez said. "We know we're probably going to experience some backlash, but knowing that there's young kids that walk by each day that otherwise don't feel safe coming out to their families, or otherwise don't feel safe in their community, they know that they could come here and be seen. Growing up in the city, that was super important for me, coming from a religious background."
This weekend's events are intended to focus on fun and joy. Portland-based muralist Daren Todd will be at the shop to paint a mural, adding more life to the space that's already had a color-filled makeover in its new existence as Turtle Island Coffee Shop. Later, Sanchez and Brady hope to host special events and late-night food offerings.
"You can be queer anywhere, but especially here," Brady told the Source. "The idea is to create a queer, indigenous, BIPOC-inclusive space where folks who are traditionally on the margins of society, and especially of this town, can congregate and be together and laugh and build community, drink coffee."