Drenched in nostalgia and embellished with remnants of the past, the Toasted Owl Café is like something out of a vintage dream. With its eclectic furniture, cuckoo clocks, and mesmerizing rain lamps, the Toasted Owl is flying from its home base in Flagstaff to open its third location and its first in Phoenix.
Flagstaff resident and entrepreneur Cecily Maniaci owns and operates the popular northern Arizona breakfast spot. As both the woman behind the menu and the thrift shopper who searches for the restaurant’s beloved antiques, Maniaci’s vision for the Toasted Owl has evolved over the years since opening her first cafe in 2013.
“I was thinking — what are the three things I love? I love people, I love vintage, and I love food,” Maniaci says, “And so I was like, why can’t I fill all three of those things and forever be shopping for vintage?”
After peering through the windows of a humble shop on Birch Avenue and sharing her ideas with a trusted friend, Maniaci signed the lease for the quaint space that became the first Toasted Owl Café.
Her daughter’s friends, Northern Arizona University students at the time, became the restaurant’s first employees and it wasn’t long before the Toasted Owl outgrew its 396-square-foot spot. Maniaci attributes the early success to the enthusiasm of her employees.
“I have to say they probably made us what we are because they were just wonderful kids and they went out and told everybody. It got so busy that we started putting tables in the hallway and tables outside,” she says.
Maniaci assures that the unique qualities and charm of the Toasted Owl Café will be integrated into the Valley location as well, operating under the slogan “everything is for sale.” At the Toasted Owl, everything from the artwork and lamps to the furniture and coffee mugs is available for purchase, even the tables guests sit at to eat their breakfast.
She believes it is important to dial into the experiences people are looking for when they go out — and for Maniaci, that is the nostalgia of “sitting at a table that’s from 1950.”
An Owl ObsessionThis goal allows Maniaci to pursue her love of vintage furniture and collectibles as she travels around the country looking for interesting and unusual pieces to add to her cafes. Many of the items she collects are owl related. Her expansive collection of figurines and keepsakes is one oddity that has followed Maniaci ever since her days as an English teacher at North High School in the 1990s.
Over the years, she has received countless owl items from friends and strangers, some of whom mail their gifts anonymously. From a box packed with hundreds of owl knickknacks and figurines shipped from West Virginia to taxidermy owls and mounted owl wings with mysterious and eerie stories, Maniaci says, “the owl thing has taken on a life of its own.”
As the owl collection continues to grow, Maniaci’s goal is to win the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of owl-related items — an undertaking that will require digitizing and photographing every owl in her cafes and her 3,000-square-foot storage unit.
Looking toward the Toasted Owl’s near future, Maniaci is excited and ready to be a part of the Phoenix economy and small business community. She had been considering this leap for some time when she was approached by Venue Projects, a Phoenix-based company that is known for local redevelopment projects including the Rise Uptown Hotel and the adjacent Newton plaza, Maniaci says.
Flocking to Phoenix
The uptown Phoenix boutique hotel is home to the Lylo Swim Club and Don Woods’ Say When rooftop bar but when Venue Projects thought about a breakfast option for hotel guests, the Toasted Owl came to mind. At the time, Maniaci had already been looking at other locations in Phoenix but when she was presented with this opportunity, it seemed like the right fit, she says.
Construction is underway on the 2,400-square-foot space located in the plaza next to the hotel. Although her new cafe will be fairly small for the bustling uptown brunch scene, Maniaci plans to work with the space available and offer delivery to guests staying next door. The new Phoenix location is projected to open sometime in May.
When reflecting on her journey as an independent entrepreneur, Maniaci is proud of the leaps and bounds she has made over the last decade.
“I started a business in my 40s and I was successful, and that is not without an enormous amount of gratitude to all of the people who helped me get there. You have to believe in what you’re doing…and have a good product,” Maniaci says. "And like I said, I love what I do. I love meeting people, I love eating the food, and I love shopping vintage — and it isn’t like going to work.”
Toasted Owl Café
12 South Mikes Pike Street, Flagstaff
5200 East Cortland Boulevard, Flagstaff
Coming Soon: 300 West Camelback Road