You can get a latte and a Led Zeppelin album at Mojave Coffee and Records, but don't let the order of the words confuse you: This is first and foremost a record store that sells coffee.
“People ask, ‘Why do you open at noon?’” owner TJ Jordan says. “Well, because I’m a record store guy, not a coffee guy. I’m not going to open at 7 a.m.”
Mojave, which opened in east Phoenix in 2018, is a notably small space. It's crammed with record bins, a selection of CDs, and a wall of cassettes. A typewriter sits under a Tiffany lamp, beside a bookshelf. The wall behind the coffee bar is made of wood, just like the hanging acoustic guitars, which Jordan says helps to add warmth.
When I arrive early, Jordan asks me to give him a couple of minutes before our interview. He and a frequent customer, Nick Vukasinovic, are finishing up a concert by slide guitarist Sonny Landreth that's playing on the television hanging above the records.
Jordan has been working in record stores since he was 17. He's the former owner of downtown Phoenix mainstay Revolver Records, which closed in 2019. He is a nostalgic type of guy who pines for an era of music that was, in his view, much better than the one we're currently living through. He thinks that streaming music online ruins certain aspects of the listening experience, like appreciating an album's cover art, and he believes that the best music exists on vinyl records from the '50s to the late '80s. So, that's mostly what he sells at his shop. He even avoids vinyl reissues.
“I was always into records. I never stopped buying records. There was never a record renaissance for me," Jordan says. “There are photos of me wearing headphones at 5 years old. They’d ask me which record was which. And that’s what I do now.”
Jordan's love for coffee came later, inspired by the European tradition of quaint cafes and stimulating conversations. “I like the idea of the coffee culture over in Europe,” Jordan says. “I just thought, let’s have a place to celebrate the two.”
Visitors who’re in the mood to live their European espresso fantasies can browse the chalk menu that lists a selection of coffee and tea drinks. Or, they can join Jordan for weekend musical themes, where customers listen to a specific artist and talk while sipping a dark brew. But your eyes will probably first be drawn to the piano which sits, closed, behind the coffee bar.
“I bought it for myself,” Jordan says. “I play the piano and the guitars, usually when people aren’t here. I wanted people who live in the Now Generation to see how music is made.”
One of Jordan’s frequent customers is Vukasinovic, who says he met Jordan back in 2004 when Jordan worked as a manager at the Zia Records Chandler location.
“I come here every weekend,” Vukasinovic says. “This weekend, we listened to Jethro Tull. Next weekend, Doobie Brothers,” Vukasinovic stops and looks back at Jordan. “Am I involved in the ‘pick-ness’ of it?”
“Yeah,” Jordan says. ‘We do it together.”
Vukasinovic says he, too, has had a burning love for music since he was 5. But he prefers CDs. “In '84, I was only 18 years old at the time, I had 900 vinyl and I sold them all and went to CDs. I probably have about 5,000 CDs right now.”
Vukasinovic calls Mojave Coffee and Records an “eff'in godsend,” and Jordan says he's thankful for the loyal customers that keep him in business.
But don’t expect him to carry current pop music like Taylor Swift or other pop sensations.
“I won’t carry stuff just because it will sell,” Jordan says.
Mojave Coffee and Records is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday until 5 p.m. at 4747 East Thomas Road.
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