There is an abundance of coffee shops in downtown Salem—basically one on every street. The choice of which to choose extends beyond location and price. While some “coffee snobs” or “hipsters” may prefer designer coffee or designer atmosphere, IKE Box is the place welcoming to everyone.
Located on the corner of Chemeketa and Cottage Street, the building has an old-timey, refurnished feel—like the mission of IKE Box. The coffee shop is part of the business of Isaac’s room, a non-profit organization started by Mark and Tiffany Bulgin after they lost their two-month-old son Isaac in 1998. The Bulgins wanted to give the love and care they would have given Isaac to disadvantaged youth in the Salem community.
Isaac’s Room sponsors Ike Quest, a program that teaches divested youth life skills and provides mentors for them. Afterwards the young people apply these skills by working at the coffee shop or through community service.
Every cup of coffee or light lunch helps kids who otherwise would have no way out of their situation. They serve Sister’s Coffee, roasted in the mountains of Sisters, Oregon. The house blend is nicely balanced and has a strong taste. Their chai tea is one of the best in town, not too watery or too sweet. You can also order a dirty chai, which has a shot of espresso in the chai. IKE Box offers a selection of tea and Italian sodas for the non-coffee drinker.
They also offer light fare—Spielman bagels with an assortment of spreads, muffins and coffee cake. Lunch options include a falafel sandwich, seasonal soup, Craisin feta salad or Caesar salad.
Even as the lunch rush descended on IKE Box, the wait for my coffee was not long and the baristas were friendly and helpful.
Whereas other coffee shops are crowded or full of minimalist metal chairs, IKE box has space and a variety of seating options. The main area is the ballroom. The combination of a gold ceiling, lit with bulb lights circling the room, and the marbled purple and cream stained glass windows provide an ethereal glow. The walls are a bit puzzling. Poor imitation of Renaissance-like cherubs and ivy are painted on panels of the wall offset by column molding.
The couches and chairs form mini living rooms. Solid dark stained wood tables and chairs fill the rest of the room. The room also functions as a concert venue with a stage on one end. It’s almost never completely crowded—there is always a nook to hide in.
Whether you’re looking for a cup of coffee or some food to hold you over, the IKE Box provides a warm, inviting environment that stimulates conversation or good ol’ fashioned studying. Either way it’s a place to do good for others.