At Fifth Avenue and McDowell Road, next to the newly-opened brewery Rose’s by the Stairs, a construction crew works on a brick building in triple-digit heat. “We’re hiring,” a sign out front reads. “Opening soon," says another.
The once bright yellow building that housed Easley’s Fun Shop for 72 years will soon become the first Phoenix location of Seattle-based coffeehouse Caffe Vita. Espresso drinks, pour overs, pastries, and funky jams will replace Marvel costumes and fake blood.
“Caffe Vita is a classic, old school meets new school kind of coffee roaster that sits in the middle of specialty coffee and what we know as second wave or Starbucks coffee,” says Kate Van Petten, Caffe Vita’s marketing director.
Van Petten explains that many Seattlelite snowbirds who migrate to Phoenix for the winter were craving a fix of their hometown coffee shop. Some reached out asking for a location in the desert.
“We just knew that if we had this strong demand and a community that was already built and existed there, that it was about time to do something,” Van Petten says.
This will be the ninth location for Caffe Vita, which opened its first in Seattle in 1995 and currently has shops spread between Seattle, Portland, and New York. Four locations closed during the pandemic, including one in Los Angeles. The Phoenix shop, which will roast its beans on site, will be the first to open since then.
Caffe Vita will offer the usual suspects including lattes, espressos, and the like, but the menu will modify accordingly to meet customer needs in a city much warmer than the other cafes.
“There will be a lot more iced drinks, cold brew, lemonades, and teas,” Owner and CEO Deming Maclise says. “I always like to leave a solid amount of room for what the public wants. So we’re gonna come with our ideas and be listening and taking feedback while we’re there.”
Along the way, Maclise developed a wholesale relationship with Caffe Vita, an existing brand. He took ownership of the company in 2020 without forgetting his musical roots. Caffe Vita's Seattle Center location shares space with KEXP-FM, an indie rock radio station. In Phoenix, he plans for a DJ booth and a partnership with Record Bar Radio, a collection of independent DJs who play sets at venues like Crescent Ballroom and Walter Studios.
"We always want to be promoting music in general because 30 to 50 percent of people that work here are musicians and it's a big part of who we are and where we come from," Maclise says.
He also plans for live music in conjunction with Rose's by the Stairs, a new brewery that took over the west side of Easley's Fun Shop and shares a patio with the cafe. Brewery owner Jordan Ham says he can't wait for his new neighbor to open. He hopes to one day brew a beer with Caffe Vita beans.
"I think the owners are great people. I'm excited to turn Easley's into something really cool. It's been sitting there, it has all that history," Ham says.
Now, the bright yellow building on McDowell Road begins its next chapter, this one filled with all things brewed. Caffe Vita plans for a soft opening on July 1, followed by an official opening party on July 30.