This New Valley Cafe Helps Foster Youth in Phoenix. Meet Hãnai Coffee

Laveen business owners, Ryan and Sara Senters opened Hãnai to employ and support foster teens who are aging out of the system.
Laveen business owners, Ryan and Sara Senters opened Hãnai to employ and support foster teens who are aging out of the system. Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
Ryan and Sara Senters have a heart for instilling belonging and community in the Valley’s foster youth. As foster and adoptive parents, the Senters have seen the powerful impact a loving family can have on a child, and now, they've turned that passion into a new coffee shop in Laveen.

The word “Hãnai” is not only the name of the new business, but a motto for how the Senters live and serve the community. Hãnai is a term used in Hawaiian culture to describe the friends who become family — adopted family.

click to enlarge
Unlike most coffee shops, Hãnai offers an extensive beer, wine, and craft cocktail menu including happy hour specials.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
“I think after becoming an adoptive parent, and just being in the community of working in foster care, the reality is you have to find some type of extended family or support," Sara says. “But if we can find them the support…or put some funds towards those programs that will allow them to possibly find parents or find kinship…we’re all about that.”

Hãnai became a reality when the Senters signed a lease for a space on Southern Avenue in July 2021. After nine months of renovating the former CrossFit gym, Hãnai opened its doors in April and celebrated its grand opening in May 2022. The coffee shop employs foster teens to help them develop skills and experience in the workforce.

“We wanted to create a business where they can work, be trained up, learn a skill but also have people that cared about them deeply,” Ryan says. “The goal is one day they could become a manager here or open up their own Hãnai.”

click to enlarge
Hãnai brews their espresso using locally roasted coffee from Elevate Coffee Company in North Phoenix.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
Over the years, the Senters’ fondness for Hawaiian culture has influenced the direction of their family and business ventures. The couple founded Ohana, a non-profit social services agency that works with foster youth and adults with special needs, in 2015. Hãnai is a continuation of the community they’ve built thus far.

As parents of six children (four adopted and two biological), the Senters are aware of the struggles foster youth face and have learned mentorship techniques for supporting them.

Through Ohana’s Work and Job Readiness Program, Hãnai hires foster youth ages 15 to 19 years old and teaches them the confidence and social skills required to be successful employees. Hãnai also provides a safe environment to learn independence and leadership skills.

“There are incidents where kids would be typically fired from a job but our management is trauma trained and very grace-based when it comes to knowing situations individually which has been very helpful,” Sara says.

Hãnai’s management staff are trained weekly on things like trauma and leadership — including how to allow young people to experience normalcy and failure in a healthy, empathetic setting.

The Senters hope their coffee shop will benefit both its employees and customers.  As Laveen residents, they felt that the area needed a welcoming environment and space to connect and hold gatherings, whether that be baby showers, paint nights, or church events. Hãnai uses both the shop and a reservable conference room for hosting things like meetings and birthday parties.

“For the community specifically, it’s a reminder of how we all deserve a nice place to go to,” Sara says, “So we’re affordable but we’re pretty — and we deserve to be here. You don’t have to be in downtown or Scottsdale to have a pretty space.”

click to enlarge
Hãnai provides Laveen locals with a welcoming space to gather and connect with the community.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
Bright, airy, and inviting, Hãnai’s atmosphere is simplistic yet modern with a bohemian twist that wouldn’t be complete without deep blues to remind you of the ocean. The clean, coastal decor and open concept design is complemented by the Caribbean-influenced menu with a hint of Spanish flair, which is equally unique and colorful.

Try the Toast Trio or the crowd-favorite Aloha Punch. Serving coffee, craft cocktails, beer, wine, and food, Hãnai is a one-stop shop for brunch and midday pick-me-ups. One of their most popular food items is the Southwest Breakfast Crepe, a savory morning crepe filled with chorizo, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, crispy potatoes, and fresh avocado then drizzled with a creamy chipotle ranch sauce.

click to enlarge
The Southwest Breakfast Crepe is filled with eggs, cheese, potatoes, avocado, and chorizo with just the right amount of spice.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
Blending family-friendly options and kid’s menus with mimosa buckets and date night-worthy bruschetta boards, Hãnai’s offerings were created with the experience in mind.

Hãnai is all about bringing the “Aloha Spirit” to the Laveen community by extending warmth and hospitality, the Senters say. To them, Hãnai is “a place where you feel a sense of community — where you feel at home.”

Hãnai Coffee + Beer + Wine

3648 West Southern Avenue, Unit 148
Hours: Sundays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom is a writer and photographer living in Phoenix, Arizona. She writes the occasional poem on one of her 11 typewriters and is usually behind the camera on weekends. She graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. Her favorite pastimes include finding the best mimosa, game nights with friends, and exploring new places with her fiancé and their mini Aussie.