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Caffeine culture: How three downtown coffee shops got their start

Photo by Alyssa Tufts
Photo by Alyssa Tufts

Photo by Alyssa Tuft Local downtown Phoenix coffee shop owners either found a passion or saw potential in the coffee industry, a culture that now seems to be transforming the metro-area.
Photo by Alyssa Tuft

I have heard from three separate business owners: If you have a dream, go for it. An entrepreneur is defined as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

Stephanie Vasquez, the owner of Fair Trade Café based in Phoenix, had a career in education before she was inspired by a vacation outside the U.S. to open her own coffee shop.

“At the time I was a schoolteacher, I taught science to middle schoolers and I went on a vacation to Costa Rica and I learned about the history of coffee, the importance of community and just the culture of coffee," she says. "The meaning behind it all and it was absolutely beautiful. "

Photo by Alyssa Tufts After visiting a coffee farm in Guatemala, Cartel Coffee Lab owners Amy and Jim Silberschlag opened up the lab that is based out of Tempe.
Photo by Alyssa Tufts

The start up of Vasquez’s Fair Trade Café is similar to the beginning of Cartel Coffee Lab, based out of Tempe, by Amy Silberschlag and her husband Jim six years ago. The idea got rolling after Jim went Guatemala and visited a coffee farm.

There are many different ways to establish a business. Entrepreneurs can find a space and build the business from the ground up, or the they can buy an existing business and take it over to make it their own. Johnny Eddins, the owner of One Coffee Company based in Phoenix, bought a pre-existing coffee shop that was running a successful business until the previous owner had to give it up due to family reasons. Eddins had owned a day spa for more than 13 years and brought his management experience to the coffee shop.

While Eddins didn’t buy the space and take a risk that way, he still had others doubting that the business would be successful, even when it was in a prime location just blocks away from Chase Field in Downtown Phoenix.

Photo by Alyssa Tufts One Coffee owner Johnny Eddins took what many of his peers saw as a risk when he took over the coffee shop. Eddins saw the shop's location as its key to success, saw the chance and ran with it.
Photo by Alyssa Tufts

“I had people tell me, 'You’re crazy to buy this because of the economy and you do the opposite of the masses,'" Eddins says. “It was doing well; you don’t want to change a good thing, and then it’s all about location. The three most important things: location, location, location. So, I saw this and I went, 'yeah.'”

Eddins also kept the staff that was working for the previous owner because he felt they were competent.

“They were training me,” he says. “Let’s do this together, let’s work as a team here, everybody’s equal, I’m no better than the next person I hire, and that’s the way we operate.”

The Silberschlags enjoy being able to work alongside people they admire.

“The idea of creating something alongside my husband put energy together," Silberschlags says. "Working with people is awesome, [you] evaluate, grow and learn to do life alongside people who have the same passions as you do.”

The daily routine changes for each entrepreneur. For Vasquez and Eddins, they juggle going different directions. For Vasquez, it’s going between her two locations to take care of things. For Eddins, it’s working for part of the day, going to Costco or Restaurant Depot for supplies and then roasting One Coffee Company’s beans while working on business matters.

Vasquez’s Fair Trade Café has a comfortable atmosphere for college students that channels her visit to Costa Rica and follows a green business model.

“We’re huge on recycled materials," she says. "So all the wood you see in here is refurbished; we’re very, very green, an extremely green business. I feel like the colors and the way we’ve done things in here kinda represents our mission.”

Every ingredient is fresh and she tries to use as much locally sourced organic foods as possible. The menu also offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

The advice Silberschlag offers about starting your own business is to pursue your vision no matter what anyone else thinks.

"[In] business, it has the opportunity to get dreary or exhausting. It [should be] encouraging and fun," she says. "Follow your gut, spend time and research on it, take time to fulfill your dream and take steps to make it a reality.”


Reach the writer at or follow her on Twitter @Alyssa_Tufts

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