Porter Barn Wood to open The Coffee Builders, a new cafe in downtown Phoenix | Phoenix New Times


Porter Barn Wood to open a European-inspired coffee shop and cafe this summer

The coffee shop will double as a showroom for Porter Barn Wood, inviting customers to take a look inside and enjoy breakfast or lunch.
In addition to the upcoming café and coffee shop, Porter Barn Wood's property includes a lumberyard, wood shop, blacksmith and concrete fabrication facilities.
In addition to the upcoming café and coffee shop, Porter Barn Wood's property includes a lumberyard, wood shop, blacksmith and concrete fabrication facilities. Grace Stufkosky
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Quiet, intimate and peaceful are not often words used to describe a bustling neighborhood café, yet Thomas Porter of local lumber company Porter Barn Wood is determined to blend the convenience and ease of a coffee shop with the comfort and luxury of fine dining — and he’s calling it The Coffee Builders.

Just south of downtown Phoenix on the Porter Barn Wood property, Porter and his team are transforming a former 1960s storefront into a breakfast and lunch café that is set to open this August. The new concept will serve specialty coffee and internationally-inspired food and pastries.

After the existing building and prior office space finishes its facelift, the café will seat approximately 20 people inside. There will also be an outdoor patio and additional overflow seating located across the parking lot inside the Porter Barn Wood showroom.

Porter hopes The Coffee Builders will be a haven for professionals and creatives alike who are looking to unwind, grab a bite to eat and sip a cup of coffee.

“Most of the time you go to a coffee shop and it feels like you’re in college, right?” Porter says. “I wanted to create something a little bit more adult, a little bit more executive… because there is something magical about having a calm, dark space to collect your thoughts — especially in downtown Phoenix. If you can find easy parking, and you can walk into a calmer space, you can center yourself a little bit easier while you’re eating some good food and drinking a coffee.”

Since establishing Porter Barn Wood in 2012, Porter has continued to broaden his business ventures over the years. From selling reclaimed barn wood to participating in high-end design projects for commercial properties nationwide, Porter has executed his fair share of innovative endeavors but none like The Coffee Builders.

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The Coffee Builders' breakfast and lunch menu will offer a variety of dishes and pastries inspired by recipes found in Germany, France and Denmark.
Grace Stufkosky

A new space with classic recipes

The initial idea began with what he likes to call a “testeraunt” or experimental showroom used to demonstrate to clients what Porter Barn Wood is capable of in terms of restaurant architecture and design. After beginning construction on the building just a few months ago, Porter realized he could take it a step further.

Inspired by the many chefs and restauranteurs he’s worked with across the country, Porter decided to make his “testeraunt” into a functioning kitchen complete with breakfast, lunch and premium coffee.

“I thought, you know, if I make a really nice menu and I have a decent coffee set up then I don’t have to go anywhere for lunch. So, I get to experiment and have fun, and I’ve always been a little bit of a foodie,” Porter says. “This place is kind of the sum of many of my creative outlets, and food is a huge one.”

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Thomas Porter and his team gave their previous office building a mid-century-inspired facelift, including an exterior wall reminiscent of a subtle ripple in water.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom
The Coffee Builders’ menu will be a combination of unique breakfast and lunch items inspired by recipes from around the globe. A signature dish Porter is excited to share with the Phoenix community is an open-faced sandwich typically found in Denmark called smørrebrød. It is a slice of traditional Danish rye bread (or rugbrød) that is stacked with various types of meats, spreads, farm-fresh ingredients and colorful garnishes.

In addition to smørrebrød, the menu will also include lavash pizzas, sliders and a number of gluten-free breakfast and lunch options. However, no coffee shop would be complete without a selection of small bites and pastries — a detail that took a great amount of time and care.

“When I was a kid, I used to frequent this little German coffee shop on the west side of town called Der Kaffeekuchen which means ‘The Coffee Cake’ in German. There was a sweet, older man that was a baker there and he was just phenomenal. I would go there whenever I could. The pastries were extraordinary — it was the best German food I’ve ever had in my life,” Porter says.

The German coffee shop has since closed but Porter was able to get in touch with the baker, Eduard Stemerowitz, who gifted Porter his original, handwritten recipe book that contained the secrets to those German pastries he'd loved so much, including a blueberry cream cheese and bourbon maple turnover — a pastry The Coffee Builders will proudly offer.

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Set to open this August, The Coffee Builders will serve breakfast, lunch and specialty coffee Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their upcoming location just south of downtown Phoenix.
Nikki Michelle Charnstrom

Where dining meets design

Although the menu plays a tremendous role in the overall experience Porter hopes The Coffee Builders will achieve, the style and design of the space are instrumental in bringing his vision to life.

Doubling as a restaurant showroom for Porter Barn Wood, The Coffee Builders “is not meant to look like a coffee shop at all.” From the puzzling and intricate wood ceiling that’s a design feat in itself to the henna-inspired artwork in the bathroom that was hand-painted by Porter’s niece, every high-end finish and artistic detail are an example of the work Porter and his team are so passionate about.

“Every textile, every light fixture, every piece of [the] booth[s], everything in the restaurant that people see was manufactured by us — so, you know, it’s not just the food that we’re making,” Porter says.

In addition to displaying new materials, finishes and service items to hospitality clients, Porter hopes The Coffee Builders will help bridge the gap between the Porter Barn Wood showroom and the public.

“So many people drive by our main building and say, ‘I’ve passed by this 100 times and I’ve always wondered what was inside,’ and I think having a restaurant out front and having a really cool space to come and just grab a quick coffee is going to encourage people to step inside the doors and see what it is that they’ve been missing out on," he says.

Porter also wants The Coffee Builders to be a collaborative space. Breakfast and lunch will be served from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and the space will also host private events in the evenings and on weekends. Integrated sound, lights and visuals will be incorporated throughout the space for guests to utilize for presentations and events, such as bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, office parties, baby showers and the like.

As The Coffee Builders readies to open in August, Porter says the concept is sure to continue evolving.

“Because this restaurant doesn’t have to exist as most traditional restaurants would, this is our test kitchen and test space 100 percent of the time. We get to try things that otherwise maybe another restaurant wouldn’t because they don’t fit the mold," he says. "But we got to throw that out of the window and do it because we just want to. So, we are going to get to experiment with some things that you won’t see anywhere else, which is going to be a lot of fun.”

The Coffee Builders

901 S. Seventh St., Phoenix
Monday-Friday 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Planned to open: August 1
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