Downtown Phoenix Inc. is dedicated to maintaining the unique vibe of the city center. Since last summer, it has been supplying small business supporters with free shirts, hats, masks and tote bags through its Buy & Fly program.
Now, the organization is creating a little more buzz – by throwing locally roasted coffee into the mix. Through the Buy & Fly initiative, Downtown Phoenix Inc. encourages residents and visitors to support local coffee shops while also shopping, eating, drinking and exploring at other Downtown businesses.
Here’s how it works: Simply submit receipts of $25 or more from places like The Churchill, Heard Museum, Little Rituals and more than 150 other participating institutions and get one pound of free coffee beans from Downtown java joints including Fillmore Coffee, Dapper and Stout, Serafina, Cartel, Hidden Track Café and Blue House Coffee Goods.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we needed to very quickly react and pivot our work plan to try to ensure that we can keep as many of our small businesses intact to get them to the other side, whatever that looks like and whenever that may occur,” says R.J. Price, Downtown Phoenix Inc.’s chief marketing officer.
Its primary objective was to provide information on federal programs that would help keep local businesses afloat. Beyond that, Price and his team formulated a game plan to position small businesses within the community at large “to make sure that people understand the urgency of the situation and the need that our small businesses have for their support now more than ever and how they could play a role in that.”
“If you really like Downtown Phoenix, if you are passionate about what the neighborhood has become, you owe a lot of that to the small business landscape,” Price says. “That is integral to the authentic street-level experience that Downtown Phoenix has.”
Price says the restaurants in Downtown Phoenix are 85 percent locally owned. “It’s by design and it’s what has made our neighborhood so special,” he says. How can the community help maintain that and ensure that small businesses don’t die off during the pandemic?
Since June, nearly 900 receipts have been submitted, which equates to about $70,000 in direct spending. “But, like anything, it loses a little bit of its gusto,” Price admits. “But we’ve tried hard to keep the energy and the interest in the program in hopes of maintaining and sustaining our businesses.”
What if they were able to provide something hyperlocal while also encouraging people to spend money at another business? That’s where the coffee concept came in.
“It’s a win-win,” Price says. “You’re not only supporting the business that you’re getting the receipt from, you’re also directly supporting a coffee shop.”
One of those shops is Serafina, a Downtown coffee roaster with a quality-over-quantity ethos. It’s also dedicated to “helping out the little guy,” according to owner Damian Serafine – by cutting out the middleman and working directly with farmers.
It was like a light switch when the pandemic hit, Serafine says. “Right before COVID, Downtown was rockin’.”
One silver lining, though, was the sense of community that sprouted from the chaos, Serafine says.
“We’re all in this together. Before, another coffee shop would be my competitor. Not anymore. Now, it’s like, ‘OK, what can we do for each other?’” he says. “Let’s get as many people in both of our doors as we possibly can. It’s changed everything.”
Blue House Coffee Goods is another participating café and it’s as committed to the environment as it is to the quality coffee they serve and the community they serve it to. Known for its cold brew – it was the first place in Arizona to put it on tap – the coffee company has also vowed to be completely carbon neutral by the end of 2021. It is currently offering both monthly bean subscriptions and weekly cold brew delivery. Owner Sam Beger believes the collaboration will give people the opportunity and incentive to try something new.
“We’ve always loved being a part of the Downtown Phoenix community and having an organization to really promote all the cool things that are being done down here,” he says. “This is just a great opportunity to be involved in an initiative to help small business down here, which is hugely important. We’re stoked to be partners with an organization like Downtown Phoenix, who’s trying to keep the doors open of these small businesses.”