Starbucks and Cartel Coffee Lab may be welcoming some new competition in Tempe.
Royal Coffee Bar opened Tuesday at the corner of Fifth Street and College Avenue, across from the University House, formerly known as the Hub On Campus.
There wasn’t a grand opening, because some work was still being done on the interior. The opening was planned for early February but was pushed back pending the acquisition of permits, said manager Braden Hammond.
This delay created an oddity with staffing the location. Expecting to be understaffed during the opening weeks while word would spread around campus, the delay made it so the store was actually overstaffed while it was closed during much of February and March, Hammond said.
Now that the store is open, however, Hammond is preparing to hire more staff.
“We’ve hired a couple of students already, now that we’re open,” he said. “We got five or so résumés today, and we’ll probably get a bunch more next week.”
Fine arts senior Julia Gonzalez already works at Royal and said she enjoys it a lot.
“I love the company,” she said. “I worked at the Biltmore location last summer as a part-time job, and it was great, too.”
Maricopa Community College student Kelsey Garner said she enjoys working for the company and likes the flexibility it gives.
“The first question they ask you is what’s your availability, but not as a deterrent,” she said. “They really work with you on that.”
Royal has several other Valley locations, one in downtown Phoenix and two in the Biltmore Fashion square. After seven years of operation, Tempe became the next target for expansion.
The location, just steps from Sun Devil Stadium, University House and the Veteran’s Way/College Avenue light rail station, is slowly beginning to bring in business.
“I lived here a few years ago and this area was nothing, but with all this activity now, I hope we’ll do a lot better,” Hammond said.
Hammond said he is a believer in the way Royal operates.
“Royal is about great craft coffee that comes unpretentiously,” he said. “People at the other locations say they really like our vibe. Here we know a lot about coffee and can make a damn good cup, but we won’t rub it in your face, either.”
The hours for the Tempe location aren’t set in stone yet, Hammond said. The hours will probably settle around 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. but could be different if the shop sees a lot of customers coming in late at night.
The Interiors of all four Royal Coffee Bar locations were designed by Hayes McNeil, the owner, who is also an architect and runs his own studio. The interior is sparsely decorated except for a wall-sized painting by Joerael Elliot. Three or four small tables sit by the window, and a single long bar runs the length of the narrow and long space that Royal occupies.
There are plans to renovate the outside of the shop first, but that will come with time, Hammond said.
As of now, the plan is to remove the part of the fence that surrounds the building in front of Royal and replace it with flowers and room for outdoor seating.
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