Roots In The Grounds: On coffee and coming home

They say it’s a small world. In the northwest, this might be particularly true, or it might just be that our family roots cover a little bit more territory out here than they do in the densely packed eastern side of the nation. John and Lori Sprague moved to the little town of Northport in 2010. For Lori, she knew the moment they rounded the corner of Highway 25 coming into town that it was home.

“I saw Silver Crown Mountain, and the town, and I just knew.” she says, reminiscing about the road trip tour that led them northward from their longtime hometown of Astoria. Lori grew up in Texas, a far cry from the port city that was the first permanent settlement on the Pacific Coast by European explorers. Spending her young vacation days in the mountains of Colorado, the jutting rock face of Silver Crown felt like going back to those days for her. Lori’s husband John, who had been born and raised in the Astoria area, was right on board with her, and ready for a move.


Recently retired from her 27 year career as a Park Ranger for Oregon State Parks, Sprague and her husband were ready for a change of scenery. John, a commercial fisherman, sold the 40 foot whaleback boat that he built after his father, Daniel Sprague passed away in 2007, and the couple decided they needed to make a change.


On a visit to John’s sister Karen in Evans, a drive around the area led them north to the border town that would become home. But it was full circle for the Spragues, as John’s grandfather, Chester had lived in Northport as a boy. The stories about the earlier Sprague family’s time in Northport had become blurry in the telling over their years, and with good reason, as Lori Sprague discovered with some digging into the past. Chester’s father George and mother Vina (Thomas) lost three children while they lived in the area, as well as Vina herself, who died in Northport in 1897. The last surviving child of the couple, Chester moved around with family members of his mother’s until he was reunited with his father and eventually settled in Oregon where George had remarried.


Chester married and raised 12 children in the Astoria, Oregon area, one of which was Dan, John’s father, who raised John and four other children in Astoria. In his final years, Dan moved in with Lori and John who cared for him until his death. After which they found their perfect spot in Northport. A sprawling log cabin was for sale on Craigslist, and with little real hope of all of the stars aligning as they settled their finances in Oregon and pushed toward a move to Washington, they made an offer.

“It was like Dad was guiding us, every step,” says Lori of the way events unfolded. After years of hard work and obstacles, the transaction for the log cabin in the woods came off without a hitch. “We’ve always had to fight every step of the way,” Lori shares, but this was different. Everything fell into place beautifully, definitely with some help from above. The Spragues moved into their new home in 2010, and years later, they have no regrets. In fact, in 2015 John received the payoff for his boat the Spragues were faced with a new dilemma. You can check out Morning Bear on Facebook


“He asked me ‘What do you want to do with this?’” Lori says, with a laugh, and in another stroke of divine coincidence, she had an answer. Fulfilling a longtime dream to run her own coffee shop, the drive through espresso stand in Northport was up for sale. The Spragues put an offer in, and on April 6 of 2015, the birthday of John’s late father, Morning Bear Coffee was opened up, a new face and a new approach to serving coffee to the community.


“For me it’s all about customer service,” Lori says. “Always have a smile on your face!” And her words aren’t idle - in the shop most of the working hours, she’s always at the window with a smile and a cheerful greeting. “The community has been extremely supportive of the shop,” she shares, and for that, she’s grateful. One of her goals for the  business was to provide weekend and summer employment for local high school students, and so far, she’s done a stellar job fulfilling that mission.


Sprague has joined the Chamber of Commerce in Northport and thrown her wholehearted support behind Northport High School athletics and programs. Business has steadily increased since the Sprague’s took the reigns at Morning Bear, and their commitment to making customers happy has won them a dedicated fan following among locals, not to mention traffic passing through to and from Canada, hikers along the Pacific Northwest Trail (which passes through Northport) and seasonal visitors that are in town for hunting and fishing and other recreational pursuits.

Morning Bear Coffee is open Monday - Friday 7:00 - 4:00 PM. Located just off of Highway 25 as it serves as Northport’s main street, the shop has a drive through window and a walk-up spot, with a few outdoor seats for warmer days. Daily specials, breakfast items and baked goods are available at Morning Bear as well. Swing by on your next visit to Northport for a festive seasonal coffee drink!