TuReal Wheelys: worlds smallest café hits downtown Phoenix

The worlds smallest café is more than meets the eye

It sits on the corner of Central Avenue and Taylor Mall, it's small but there's no way to miss it. It's black and white, but has an edge that most coffee shops don't: It's on wheels. 

ASU Downtown Phoenix campus has become a new home to the worlds smallest café, TuReal Wheelys. 

Maria Real-Tupas, a petite English woman greeting each person with a "good morning," is the CFO and one of the masterminds behind TuReal Wheelys.

"It's an amazing opportunity, we've only been up for three weeks, and we've already got so much exposure and everything like that," Real-Tupas said. "It’s pretty easy to attract attention to this cart.” 

The Wheelys cart caught Real-Tupas' eye when she was scrolling on Business Insider's Facebook and stumbled upon a video. 

Wheelys is an international company that began in 2014 when it's creator, Maria De La Croix, was turned down by a job from Starbucks and decided to start her own coffee company. Since then it's expanded, and only costs members of the company $5,000 to create a self-run cart. Real-Tupas Wheelys is the first one to make its way into Phoenix.

Not working at the time, Real-Tupas wanted something that could keep her busy while her husband, and now CEO of the cart, Patrick Tupas, was at work. 

"So I watched 40 seconds of it, I texted him and said we should get one of these and three days later we got the money for it, bought it online and yeah that was it," Real-Tupas said. 

Once Real-Tupas and her husband got the cart, they restructured it to give its own identity, tacking their last names on to the brand and building a tap into the cart in order to serve iced coffee instead of hot coffee. 

"There are no disadvantages for us, and what we want to serve to the public," Real-Tupas' husband said. "The cart is a perfect size for our business model and how we want to reach the people of downtown Phoenix."

The cart is eco-friendly and fully sustainable — It has a solar panel at the top of the cart and a battery pack in the back, both of which run the entire cart. The cart generates enough power to maintain the cart and to support a full DJ set. One of her favorite parts of the cart is that everything they sell is organic.

"Since we use 100 percent organic beans, we direct trade with coffee farmers from Guatemala," she said. "Our coffee partner, Provision Coffee, buys their coffee beans directly from the farmers and they pay them a fair wage."

Additionally, TuReal Wheelys offers cold-brew and nitro-cold brew coffee. Nitro-cold brew is infused with nitrogen, which makes the coffee come out smooth and still gives a caffeine buzz. They also offer flavors like agave, chocolate/mocha and caramel. 

According to Real-Tupas, she set up on the Downtown Phoenix campus the Monday after classes started and has already had great success.

“Every day I posted up (on the corner of Taylor Mall and Central Avenue), every day since last Monday — and every day I’ve been selling out of coffee,” she said.

The key to her success, she said, is consistency, patience and kindness.

However, she has faced some setbacks trying to find to places to set up.

“People have been trying to kick me off spots, it’s really difficult,” Real-Tupas said. “I'm a small person and this is a heavy cart so being kicked off is really annoying and impractical.”

Although it’s frustrating for her, she acknowledges that it will take a while for people to become familiar with the concept saying, “it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

But it’s more than just selling coffee for Real-Tupas and her husband, Patrick, it’s giving back to the community.

Real-Tupas and her husband started a non-profit organization called Socks and Water, Water and Socks, which gives homeless people those two basic necessities.

Growing up in a third world country with little to no money, Real-Tupas saw kids with “ripped clothes," no footwear and felt like she had to make a difference.

Wheelys accepts cash and card but they don’t give change for cash — instead the change gets donated. In addition, Real-Tupas and her husband put about 10-20 percent of how much they make into the charity.

“It’s a basic need that people should have and they don’t even have it,” Real-Tupas said. “So, if we can do that much for them, even if it’s so mundane, it makes a difference to people.”


Reach the reporter at bmchugh4@asu.edu or follow @blakelymchugh on Twitter.

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