Bang Bang Coffee opens in former Birdhaus in central Phoenix | Phoenix New Times

From Birdhaus to Bang Bang: Phoenix family takes over neighborhood coffee shop

When their son started working at Birdhaus, one couple didn't realize it would pave the way for them to own a coffee shop.
Ben Rushlo, Julie Higginbotham and their sons Joel and Jacob have opened new Phoenix coffee shop Bang Bang Coffee.
Ben Rushlo, Julie Higginbotham and their sons Joel and Jacob have opened new Phoenix coffee shop Bang Bang Coffee. Jacob Heimlich

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A connection with family and community gave birth to Bang Bang Coffee, a new cafe in central Phoenix. Bang Bang Coffee opened its doors in the space formerly occupied by Birdhaus.

Bang Bang Coffee's owners, Ben Rushlo and Julie Higginbotham, had no idea their son's job would pave the way for them to own a new business.

"My son, Joel, started working for Birdhaus two years ago and we got to hear about all the regulars and how the coffeehouse was such a big part of the community," Rushlo says.

When Birdhaus closed, Rushlo and Higginbotham approached the owners, Dylan and Michelle Bethge, who agreed to sell the coffeehouse. The Bethges own Oven & Vine, a restaurant and wine bar located next door. Rushlo and Higginbotham took over the cafe and changed the name in mid-February.

Even though Rushlo's day job as an executive at a tech organization requires a different set of skills and, he nor Higginbotham had any hospitality experience, they both didn't want to pass up an opportunity to make a positive difference in their community. 
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Bang Bang Coffee is a walk-up coffee joint with plenty of outdoor seating.

The duo lives close enough to ride their bicycles to the coffee shop and taking over the cafe provided the option to run a business during retirement.

"I wanted to do something and running the coffeehouse also offers a purpose because of the community we serve," Higginbotham says.

"There are so many regulars daily and we start to worry about them if we don't see them," Rushlo adds. He sees a constant influx of people who live in the condos nearby gathering at Bang Bang Coffee.

"There is a connection that this is my place or this person knows me — something similar to the vibe on the sitcom 'Cheers,'" Rushlo says.

He attributes this connection to his son.

"Joel is the head barista and manages the place for us. We do a lot of the behind-the-scenes (work) with inventory and financial pieces, but he is the face and some would say probably the heart and the soul of the business because he talks to all the regulars," Rushlo says.

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Outdoor seating is available at Bang Bang Coffee.
Jacob Heimlich
Since the Bang Bang Coffee is a walk-up window and there are chairs and tables outside, it is easy for people to gather and have a conversation or get a cup of coffee and read a book. The vibe is friendly, casual and welcoming for those flying solo or couples and families who want to chill. Their summer hours are Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to noon and they are open on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Patrons also get excited about the food menu as Bang Bang Coffee offers made-from-scratch waffles.

"It is super popular because I think not very many places offer coffee and a waffle, but people love them. We sell a lot of them," Rushlo says.

The waffles come with real maple syrup, Nutella or a homemade raspberry lemon compote.  They have also started carrying Bagelfields Bagels and hope to keep experimenting with different food items.  
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Made-from-scratch waffles are available at Bang Bang Coffee.
Jacob Heimlich
Bang Bang uses coffee from Xanadu Coffee Co., a local roaster. Drink selections include macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes.

"We do teas, home-done cold brews and drip is also available," Rushlo says. "People love our cold brew. It is super affordable and our drip tends to be more on the dark roast side."

There is also a lesser-known secret about the drinks tied to the family's obsession with the show, "Twin Peaks." Their other son, Jacob, was in charge of the design and logo for Bang Bang, and kept this theme in mind.

"The special drinks are named after characters in 'Twin Peaks'... we call our drip 'damn fine coffee' because Agent Cooper in 'Twin Peaks' is always saying, 'This is a damn fine cup of coffee,'" Rushlo says.

The couple is grateful for the opportunity and happy to include their sons in their new family business.
"But getting to know the community has been the most rewarding part of it, and it kind of blew me away," Rushlo says. "It is amazing."                                                                                                                                     

Bang Bang Coffee

10 W. Vernon Ave.
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