At Phoenix Coffee, the sweet smell of success

Phoenix Coffee has two locations in the Heights, 2287 Lee Road (above) and 1854 Coventry Road. Photo credit Bill Kushner.
While national coffee chains continue to close stores, Phoenix Coffee, a Heights area gourmet coffee venue continues to grow by keeping things local. It’s a trend that has some retail experts scratching their heads. Even with the down economy, the store is really busy for a Sunday afternoon. 

Jessie Mueller, a manager at the Lee Road store, is very enthusiastic about all things coffee, and tea for that matter. She notes that the company spends quite a bit of time and money training staff to insure that each customer has a great experience with Phoenix and its baristas.  She feels the store itself is a “unique environment for the community” with its decidedly uncorporate feel.

Carl Jones is the founder of the company; his wife Sarah Wilson-Jones is the CEO. Over a cappuccino, Carl explains that the environment in the stores is by intention and is designed to foster Coffee Culture. That is, the idea of a coffee house where people come together to discuss everything under the sun. He strongly believes that the culture is “something that is good for human beings” and should be encouraged.

In fact, an eclectic group of local Heights professionals and erstwhile philosophers known as the Phoenix Fellows meet at the Lee Road store every morning and talk for hours.

However, the real key to the success of Phoenix, according to Carl, is in the back of the company facility on St. Clair Ave, where Phoenix roasts its own coffee. The roasting facility is somewhat akin to an industrial version of coffee heaven. Large bags of green coffee lay neatly stacked on pallets, each displaying its country of origin with colorful artwork. The green beans are fed into a large roasting machine and 10 minutes later out come the little dark beans we call coffee.

The aroma is amazing, think brewing coffee times 10. Coffee roasting is an art and a science, according to Carl, and an expertise that is gained through years, and in Carl’s case, decades of trial and error.

After roasting, the coffee is shipped and consumed in the company’s six locations in a matter of days, giving Phoenix a huge quality advantage over its bigger and slower rivals.

Carl strongly believes that it’s the premium quality of its many coffees that is the reason for the success of Phoenix. Without citing figures he says that the company's growth over the past few years has been dramatic.

Randy and Angela Peters are regular customers at the Lee Road Phoenix. Randy says that he has come to appreciate the quality difference between Phoenix and the major chains. It’s clear that at a time when many retailers are struggling to keep customers, Phoenix Coffee is thriving by serving a truly premium product and experience.

The company has six retail locations with two stores in Cleveland Heights, one on Lee and another on Coventry. The main office and roastery is on St. Clair Ave and can be reached at 216-522-9744.

Bill Kushner, formerly of Los Angeles, Calif., has lived in Cleveland Heights with his wife and six children for the last 20 years.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 10:25 PM, 04.08.2009