When it comes to operating a coffee shop in Phoenix, Christiaan and Laryn Callaway-Blok, the owners of Shine Coffee, are creating a very special midtown caffeine community.
When the recession wreaked havoc on their previous careers, the Bloks had to think fast about how they would make a living. According to Laryn, the proliferation of coffee shops along Central Avenue signaled positive growth for Phoenix, and the opportunity for the couple to invest in their home.
“It’s a sign of a lot of urban renewal, it’s a sign of people moving to downtown,” she said of the multiplicity of businesses moving downtown.
Christiaan was born in the Netherlands and lived in Europe for the first 20 years of his life, where he experienced a coffee culture different than the more automatic, mechanized one in the United States.
“I create relationships, and people love that,” said Christiaan. “People tell their stories, and people tell me if they’re joyous or sad. And that is actually very much an element of the European café culture.”
Their current Vernon Avenue brick and mortar location opened in November 2012, and was an outgrowth of their experience running a mobile business.
“We started as a food truck, and we really saw a niche for kind of an upscale, mobile coffee bar, which is what we did for a couple of years,” according to Laryn. “The food truck situation is wonderful, but it’s far more manual labor than a regular restaurant.”
Once they established the physical location for Shine, the Bloks took some initiative with their surroundings. Most recently, they completed a $23,000 privately-funded Kickstarter campaign, transforming the vacant space outside the shop into a community gathering spot to benefit both the community and the economy. The Vernon Avenue Pocket Park officially opened to the public on January 18th.
Because Shine is located in an active, midtown, urban community, the park fit right into place.
“We felt, as a local business, that we could either do something that is just for us, or we could do something that creates beauty and shape for the entire neighborhood,” said Laryn.
When it was time to layout a design for the park, the Bloks approached Kirby Hoyt, landscape designer at Edge Industries, who wanted to utilize the outdoor space to encourage community involvement.
“I hope this is a catalyst for other things like this to take place,” said Hoyt. “As a city, we don’t have to wait for the government to come in and do things; we can do things on our own.”
“As we were working on the design, they [the Bloks] took over the front part of the adjacent building for their living room, and then we tweaked the design,” said Hoyt. “We probably just rotated it 90 degrees basically to fill out this area that now is in the front of the building. So now it ties to two spaces together.”
Although there have already been drastic improvements for the business, the customers, and the city, the Bloks will continue to enhance customer experience.
For now, they want to focus on expanding the menu and park amenities at this location.
Although the couple wants to share coffee culture with as many people possible, they do not rely heavily on advertising and social media, instead preferring word of mouth.
“I think that advertising for a coffee shop can be detrimental,” said Christiaan. “If it’s good, people are going to come anyways.”
Ultimately, Shine Coffee will continue to evolve in order to create a unique customer experience that also maintains the needs of both the business and Phoenix sustainability.
“We think it’s a good time to be exploring the different kinds of coffee bars that can exist in the city of Phoenix,” Laryn said.
David Krietor has served as CEO of the newly-formed Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (“DPI”) since April 8, 2013. In that time, he has begun work with community stakeholders to develop the downtown we want. “Your Downtown” shares his thoughts and DPI’s progress with the downtown community and beyond. Read the other chats here.
Happy New Year! To start off the new year, I asked a host of friends and colleagues I work with on a day-to-day basis to share what they considered the successes experienced in and around downtown Phoenix in 2013. The responses have been pouring in over the past few days, and here is what we collectively tallied. The list is pretty impressive and a measuring stick for our resurgent downtown.
We might not have caught everything, so it’s your turn to think of something we missed. Tell us in the comments below.
2013 DOWNTOWN PHOENIX RECAP
Arts & Culture
Arizona Opera opens new office & performance space, Arizona SciTech Festival, Art Detour 25, Ballet Arizona expands into new facility, Black Theatre Troupe opens the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center, Chaos Theory #14, Chile Pepper Festival, Devoured Phoenix, Feast on the Street, First Friday success continues, Ground Cover Public Art Project, Jimmy Buffett Pre-Concert Beach Party at CityScape, Local First Certified Local Fall Festival, Mardi Gras Parade, McDowell Mountain Music Festival moves to Hance Park, mural art opportunities increase, Pedal Craft, Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Design Week, Phoenix Festival of the Arts/Mayor’s Arts Awards, Phoenix Phabulous Experience launched, Phoenix Theatre expands, Phoenix Urban Design Week, Phoestivus, Pie Social, Tour de Coops, Zombie Walk, and more art galleries and art and museum shows.
New seasons for our very own Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Rattlers, Phoenix Mercury, and Phoenix Suns. Yoga taught at outdoor public venues (e.g., CityScape, Civic Space Park, Hance Park, Roosevelt Row Pop-Up Park).
Arizona Cancer Center breaks ground, Arizona Center undergoes exterior facelift, Bee Transportation property at Sixth Ave. & Fillmore purchased by IDA/CED for possible future development, Local First Arizona opens downtown office, Maricopa Co. opens new $93M Sheriff’s Headquarters at Fifth Ave. & Jackson St., new Marriott Hotel announced at Central and Jackson St., Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS opens in former Channel 12 space, Sustainable Communities Collaborative hosted national representatives of Living Cities, and a number of makerspaces and “Made in Phoenix” furniture companies open.
ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law announces new downtown building, ASU School of Art moves programs to Warehouse District, ASU Sun Devil Fitness Complex opens, ASU Barrett Honors College Downtown Community Encounters class introduces college students to the “real” downtown, and enrollment increases for our elementary schools, high schools, community colleges, and universities.
Food & Beverage
Bragg’s Factory Diner, Clever Koi, Coach’s Corner, The Fillmore Vig, Flor de Calabaza, Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup, Game Seven Grill, Greater Than Coffee, Harumi Sushi, Jimmy John’s, Kaleidoscope Juice, La Piazza Locale, Mama Toledo’s Pies, Mud Dauber Coffee, Pallets, Phoenix Public Market Cafe, Pizza People Pub, Pomo Pizzeria, Red House Pub, Red Hut Coffee, Royal Coffee, Shine Coffee expands, Short Leash Dogs Sit Stay, Squid Ink Sushi, Starbucks (Osborn & Seventh St.), Taco Guild, Tammie Coe Cakes, The Bar on Central, The Groove on Grand, Welcome Diner, and more tasty food trucks. Inaugural Check Please Arizona Food Festival held at CityScape. Community gardens proliferate (e.g., Bioscience High School, Garfield Neighborhood, Roosevelt School District, Steele Indian School Park).
DeSoto Building renovated, Evans Shackelford House renovated, First Presbyterian Church gains new congregation, Professional Building sold for future use as boutique hotel, Winship House opens, and World War II Memorial dedicated at Wesley Bolin Plaza.
Roosevelt Point and Urban Living 2 open. Numerous new residential developments are announced, including artHaus apartments, Cooper Place (2nd & Fillmore), Portland Place 2, The Residences at CityScape, and Union at Roosevelt. Phoenix becomes nation’s first city to end chronic homelessness among veterans. Our adjacent neighborhoods continue to open up their spaces for public tours (e.g., Evans Churchill, F.Q. Story, Grand Avenue, Roosevelt, Midtown Museum, Willo).
Adams Street Activation Study, Fifth Street Streetscape, First Street Streetscape, Grand Avenue Streetscape, Roosevelt Streetscape, and increase in the number of bike related initiatives (e.g., Bike Lab, GRID, Heavy Pedal, HoodRide, Hotel Palomar Pocket Square Bike Maps, and We-Cycle-USA).
Adams Street Activation Study, GRID Bike Share approved, Bike Master Plan process initiated, bicycle infrastructure funding increases from $50K to $1.5M, Complete Streets Policy Planning initiated, Downtown Phoenix Comprehensive Transportation Study launched, Downtown Plan process initiated, Hance Park Master Plan process initiated, Infill Advisory Group, Plan PHX General Plan Update process launched, Project Rising Phoenix launched, Reinvent Phoenix, This Could Be PHX launched, Valley Metro launches South Central Corridor planning process, and Valley Metro Light Rail ridership continues to grow.
CitySkate Ice Rink attendance soars, Downtown Phoenix, Inc. formed, Get Your PHX showcases new downtown venues, Hance Dog Park opens, Holiday Lights on Central becoming an annual tradition, annual holiday luminarias light up several of our neighborhoods, Manifesto Project launched, Phoenix City Council bids adieu to Michael Johnson and Tom Simplot and welcomes Kate Gallego and Laura Pastor, Preserve Phoenix formed, TEDx Evans Churchill holds first downtown TED Talk, Phoenix earns perfect score on Municipal Equality Index, Winter Holiday Events Calendar mushrooms, and number of concerts, conventions, and hotel bookings increase. Over $100K raised for Special Olympics at “Over the Edge” rappelling at CityScape office tower.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Official Opening of Vernon Avenue Pocket Park THIS Saturday with Mayor Stanton
Shine Coffee owners Christiaan & Laryn Blok announce the Official Opening of Vernon Avenue Pocket Park on the north side of west Vernon Avenue next to their shop this Saturday, January 18 at 10am.
In addition to Mayor Greg Stanton, David Anaya of Phoenix Renews and Colin Tetrault of ASU’s School of Sustainability will be on hand to briefly discuss the importance of parks in urban Phoenix. There will be a ribbon cutting with Mayor Stanton after the remarks.
The park is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign managed by Laryn Callaway-Blok in September of 2013 which garnered over $23,000 from the community. Landscape architect Kirby Hoyt donated the design which was implemented by Paradise Valley Tree Experts/Property Maintenance. The park was built over the past few months. Future plans for the park include working with ASU architecture students on creating custom park benches and adding architectural lighting.
Every year a new crop of ASU students stream into downtown Phoenix and begin to “explore the core” as they navigate their way to class and their new home.
At DPJ, we encourage these urban adventures and are launching a fun social media hashtag campaign to encourage this discovery of the the people, places, and events that bring our urban core to life: #My1stTime.
Students, as you explore downtown, we want you to tweet us at @dtphxjournal, or post on Facebook or Instagram, a photo of yourself enjoying your very first time visiting downtown restaurants, parks, stores, art galleries, and events.
Be sure to include the hashtag #My1stTime. We’ll share our favorites.
What can fellow community members do? Help activate this campaign!
Those of us who have been here for a while can look for these hashtagged updates, welcome these new residents and encourage them to continue their urban adventures.
#My1stTime @dtphxjournal. It’s fun. It’s easy. And your mother will approve!
Eating is very important for a thinking, doing person. Sometimes, rapt in a creative fervor, one forgets, and ends up grazing on odds and ends left in the cabinet or fridge: the bottom of a cereal box, a questionably old apple, a bag of flour.
Forced breaks are good. Getting up from the desk, the computer, the studio, and venturing out into the world where people bring you food is one of the wonders of living in a city. Being able to stay put at a table for hours without the staff angrily tapping their fingers is also a relaxing blessing.
My favorite place for a midday work break used to be the Urban Grocery at the Phoenix Public Market. You could get a half sandwich, soup and a drink next door at Royal Coffee for under ten dollars. Sadly, since they closed, I realized how important it was to find a place where you could take a break and eat or where you could work all day and have good food available to you.
Aaron Chamberlin’s Public Market Café has stepped up to fill the Grocery’s shoes with small nutritious meals and a great indoor or outdoor seating environment. Even on the hottest days, it feels comfortable and welcome to sit outside in the shade under the misters. Refillable iced tea and hours until 10 p.m. make it possible to cover all your meals, should you choose to stay there all day, or at least be available for a reliable break at any hour.
For so long I’d been searching for a place where I could work in relative peace and possibly have a beer without having to fight (sometimes perhaps literally) with downtown sports enthusiasts and banners advertising Budweiser or Blue Moon. Angel’s Trumpet has answered those prayers. Not only is the staff super friendly and knowledgeable but the place is also large enough that you can carve out a corner to set up and write, work or computerize. They are also open late with food served all day, so you can easily drop in for a lunch or break from work.
If these places seem a bit too pricey and you just need a place to eat and not work, La Tolteca, on Van Buren cannot be beat anywhere in the vicinity. The menu is huge, the staff is friendly, there’s always seating available and you have the added benefit of hovering over the baked items while you wait for your food. Al Pastor tacos, ceviche for less than six dollars, a giant cup of jamaica and a great salsa selection make this place a must-stop for all artists and musicians trying to save a buck, but have tons of food. I dare you to try to eat the entire burrito at once (please don’t).
Other locations that do wonderfully as eat/work or break/eat places include Fair Trade Cafe, America’s Taco Shop, Jobot, Bonjour Vietnam at the Hotel San Carlos, and Athenian Express (cheapest breakfast anywhere!).
Don’t forget, too, that most of these places are likely staffed by budding artists, musicians and performers. Working in a restaurant provides people somewhat flexible schedules so they can make a living and still be able to create their work. This comes in handy for occasional “hey I know you” discounts for artists or, for non-artists you have the opportunity to boost an artist’s ego by asking what they do.