John Sagasta, who owns Jobot Coffee Shop and Nachobot and co-owns Bodega 420, said he’s not sure what motivates him.
“You’ve got to be there,” Sagasta said. “You’ve got to be dedicated and you’ve got to have an idea of what you’re doing. You’ve got to be passionate about it. All those things are true. But you need a lot of luck.”
His businesses do well in the Roosevelt Row arts district. In the mornings, he chats with customers out on the patio or hops in his white Tacoma to pick things up at the hardware store.
Adrian Fontes, a criminal-defense attorney and co-owner of Bodega 420, said jokingly that Sagasta is the “empirical warlord of Fifth Street.”
“He likes the people around here. They like to hang out with him,” Fontes said. “They’re loyal to him because he’s a good guy.”
Aaron Johnson, owner of Lawn Gnome Publishing and a former crepe chef at Jobot, said that if it weren’t for Sagasta, he would not have a publishing company and he wouldn’t have learned business skills.
“I don’t know anyone who works as hard as him,” Fontes said. “He gets it done. That’s what has made him successful.”
Sagasta got married about seven years ago and soon after opened a hair salon. There was an empty garage attached to the salon, so Sagasta decided to create a coffee lounge out of the space.
“At that time, dude, I’d never drunk a cup of coffee,” Sagasta said.
Because he didn’t know much about coffee, he went to a school in Oregon to learn the craft.
Sagasta spent two weeks at Bellissimo Coffee Advisors, a school that teaches students how to manage a coffee shop and what it takes to be a barista.
Although the salon enterprise eventually went under, Sagasta said it was a launching point for better ideas.
After he closed the salon, Sagasta made coffee at the arts co-op Conspire.
Fontes said Sagasta searched for his “specific blend” of espresso-bean roast with the owner of Cartel Coffee while working at Conspire.
For more than seven years, Sagasta manifested “a level of legitimacy in the community,” Fontes said. He worked at the co-op until another opportunity arose. He had been weighing starting his own coffee shop, but wasn’t sure he could run a business and was worried about the start-up costs. Sagasta decided to take the plunge and opened Jobot.
“I’d been thinking about it for a couple of weeks,” he said. “I just did it. And I’m glad I did.”
Sara Hipperson, 29, said that before Jobot made its arrival, the address was home to HoodRide, a local bike shop. When the bike shop relocated, Sagasta removed the coffee machine from Conspire.
“Which kind of sucked because for like two weeks, no one had coffee. He was moving,” Hipperson said.
Hipperson said Sagasta and the rest of Conspire had distinct ideas about what the co-op should be and that Sagasta had to reinvent himself by moving out and creating Jobot.
Jobot opened its doors in 2010 and will celebrate its second anniversary in September.
Johnson said Sagasta’s secret to success is how he treats his employees.
“John is super, super fair and takes care of his people,” he said.
Sagasta said Richard Bock, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra cellist and the owner of Giuseppe’s on 28th, an Italian restaurant, was the first customer to have drink at Jobot.
Nachobot opened in October 2011 as a bit of a joke — a pun on “Not Jobot” — but he recently hired his first chef for the space, who will add culinary chops by revamping the menu.
Sagasta’s venture with Fontes, Bodega 420, opened its doors in May.
The venture was originally conceived as a local hardware store because Sagasta was always searching for screws, nails and other tools, he said. It has now become a food haven for Roosevelt Row residents.
Sagasta said he has more ideas for Bodega 420, like connecting with United Natural Foods, a natural and organic food supplier. He hopes the store will change with “more feel-good products.”
He also mentioned the possibility of ready-made dishes prepared by a chef from Jobot.
The machine that he carried from the salon to the co-op to its current home at Jobot has been used by Sagasta and his employees to serve coffee to caffeine freaks for over a decade. It has molded Sagasta into an entrepreneur and helped him build an empire on Fifth Street.
“My biggest asset probably is that machine,” Sagasta said. “That machine and that grinder.”
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