On Monday, married couple Jonathan and Erin Carroll will be joining the Roosevelt Row coffee-shop community with Songbird Coffee and Tea House, in the MonOrchid building off of Third and Roosevelt streets.
“We were nervous about how many other great coffeehouses were along the same strip,” Erin Carroll said. “But it was such a great fit with the MonOrchid building, so we just decided to go with it.”
Fair Trade Cafe, located off of First Avenue and Roosevelt Street, is one of many coffee shops Songbird will have to compete with.
Fair Trade owner Stephanie Vasquez said she doesn’t see the other coffee joints as competition; rather, she welcomes any addition to the Roosevelt community.
“All the coffee shops downtown are very different,” Vasquez said. “All of our customers are bouncing around to each coffee shop because they all have different feels to them.”
Erin Carroll said she wants Songbird to complement the other coffee shops downtown, while doing its own thing and sticking out from the crowd.
The Carrolls hope the MonOrchid building itself, an art gallery and event venue, will help them stand out.
“Partnering with an art gallery will in itself make us unique,” Erin Carroll said. “People will come for the art and enjoy our coffee while they’re there.”
Erin Carroll said she and her husband browsed several different locations but were amazed by the MonOrchid building and what it had to offer.
The building is a hot spot for local artists to display their works, as well as weddings and other big events.
“Being part of the MonOrchid building is great,” Erin Carroll said. “We aren’t apart from the art gallery. It’s one large space where lots of people work. We wanted to be a part of that.”
Jonathan Carroll was raised in Tempe and stays connected to the community — a trait the couple plans to instill in their business.
“It’ll mostly be the two of us working it every day, so we’re going to stay small and stay connected to people,” Jonathan Carroll said. “If someone wants an odd drink, we are going to make it and cater specifically to what people want.”
Songbird will also purchase primarily from local distributors and work with local artists to stay connected to the community, Jonathan Carroll said.
Coffee shops along Roosevelt Row tend to stress community over all else.
“We’re very community-based and family-oriented,” Vasquez said of Fair Trade Cafe, celebrating its sixth year on Roosevelt Row. “All of our customers are part of our family. You get that feeling when you come in.”
Vasquez said Fair Trade Cafe stays connected to the downtown community by helping out nonprofit organizations whenever possible.
“We host many events for nonprofits and donate to many nonprofits,” Vasquez said. “Everything we do is community-surrounded. We are so supportive of everything that goes on downtown.”
Tammie Coe Cakes, off of Sixth and Roosevelt streets, contributes to the community by participating in culinary events throughout the year, manager Brett Roberts said.
Cindy Dach, acting director for the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, said the shops have added a greater sense of community to the district.
“Coffee shops offer community gathering spaces in our district,” Dach said. “They’re a place where people can meet to share ideas. We’ve become a notable district because of all these unique gathering spaces.”
Erin Carroll said that even with all the other shops along the same street, she’s hopeful the atmosphere will be friendlier and less competitive.
“They do a great job,” she said of the other coffee shops along Roosevelt. “There are a lot of great coffeehouses, and I would like for (Roosevelt) to be a coffee corridor. People should have a better understanding of coffee and have higher expectations. That excites me.”
Roberts, of Tammie Coe Cakes, said he hopes to see his competition succeed, as well.
“As businesses it’s nice to see each other succeed in a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ sort of way,” Roberts said.
The businesses along Roosevelt see the importance of supporting local coffee shops, as opposed to corporations like Starbucks — which can’t be found on Roosevelt Row, Erin Carroll said.
“We definitely want to promote other local shops over the franchises,” she said.
The Carrolls said they are confident in Songbird’s success on Roosevelt Row.
“With all of the development and changes going on downtown, that will definitely be a benefit for us and bring in more college students,” Erin Carroll said. “At the same time, there’s such a business atmosphere and art atmosphere. The clientele will be an excellent mix that we will work well with.”
Downtown campus student Courtland Jeffrey said he chooses Jobot, located on Fifth and Roosevelt streets, over the other shops on Roosevelt Row because it appeals to college students.
“Jobot is the type of coffee shop you imagine you’d go to during college — the cool, hip, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and restaurant,” Jeffrey said. “And it’s open all the time on the weekends.”
Roosevelt Row developers will soon have to decide whether coffee follows the “more the merrier” or “less is more” rule, Dach said.
Dach said she can’t say how much coffee is too much, but she knows each coffee shop stays busy, and that’s all that’s important for now.
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