blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sometime in August

It was 1976, the era of disco balls and the BeeGees. I was four years old, my parents had just bought a fixer-upper in Kirtland, OH, and my younger sister was just being born. Meanwhile, Carl Jones, my future husband, was opening the first Arabica coffee shop, the first shop of its kind, on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Lew Zipkin was his landlord. About a month from now, Carl and Phoenix Coffee will be re-opening on Coventry, with the same landlord, at exactly the same address. The thought gives me goosebumps.

As a middle schooler and high schooler in the 80s, I used to visit the Arabica on Coventry, driving all the way from Kirtland (once I could drive) to pay homage to its landmark status. I remember standing in line at 9:00 on a summer night to spend $2.50 (or so) on my first Cafe Mocha. I fished the bills out of my red corduroy wallet that my Mom had made for me when I was a lot younger; it was cute, but certainly not stylish, and it certainly didn't seem to belong on Coventry, so it went back in my pocket quickly. I stood at the high counter and handed the money over to the "clerk" (I certainly didn't know that she was a barista at the time) and stood there wondering where I was supposed to stand and what I was actually going to get for my $2.50. My friend Kathleen had told me that the Mochas were good, otherwise I wouldn't have chosen a drink with such a random, foreign name. Although all the drinks sounded foreign: cappuccino, latte, red zinger tea, what the hell were all these? I was impressed that Kathleen knew what a Mocha was. She knew what to order, she was in the know. She probably knew what all those other exotics were, too, but I wasn't about to ask. I purposely didn't act surprised when I got handed a mug piled high with whipped cream.

Back at the table, I was amazed by the whipped cream. On a drink? Yum. And then, after a few sips, which quickly turned to gulps, I discovered that I actually could like coffee... this was not the homemade "cafe au lait" made with Chock Full O Nuts and cold milk that my Mom used to give me to try. I remember the shape of the mug that the Mocha came in; it was tallish and hour-glass shaped, and didn't hold as much liquid as I wished it did. Even with half an inch still left in the cup, I was already disappointed that it would be gone in another swallow or two.

So what happens when I get to open a coffee shop in the very place where I tasted my first cup of good coffee, and the love affair began? And the same place where Carl's devotion to coffee began as well?

As nostalgic as this is, one thing I know is that although many Coventry institutions still survive, Coventry is a completely different street than it was thirty years ago. I don't expect that Carl or Phoenix will get any special treatment from customers due to his/our history on the street. We still have to be genuinely excellent. We have to prove that we can keep our focus on the wonders of coffee and our intimately fascinating relationships with our customers. This time around, we have an established company of talented Phoenixers who are committed to using quality coffee as a platform for being of genuine service to humanity. And the rest is just history.


Blogger Liz said...

I had my first mocha there too! I was with mom and I remember the mug too! And the whipped cream, yummy!! I think I was 16 or so, she mentioned that once you start to like mochas you'll probably eventually like regular coffee (which ended up being true in my case). I loved that place, it had such a cool atmosphere. I can't wait to see it when you re-open!!

6:29 AM, July 18, 2007  
Blogger Christine said...

When I lived in Coventry, I wanted to feel like I had a nice neighborhood coffee shop, but I never went to Caribou because I thought it was gross - like hot melted ice cream, their drinks were. No thanks. So I'd walk all the way down to Presti's, which was a healthy walk, sure, but not the same. I'm really glad to hear that you guys will be taking over Caribou's spot; it gives me hope - especially now that we've decided to move back to Cleveland!

What is it with mocha, anyway? That was my friends' and my first coffee drink, too....

8:40 AM, August 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance that Phoenix Coffee would open shop near the Clifton W.117 St area?

2:55 PM, August 24, 2007  
Blogger Pam Wright said...

Hey Sarah! Pam (Rice) Wright here. Just saw this post and had to laugh. Kathleen was always in the know when it came to this stuff. Wish I could pop into one of your shops right now and have a mocha!

12:46 AM, October 18, 2007  

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