Locals flock to Songbird Coffee & Tea House

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Songbird Coffee & Tea House, located on Roosevelt Row inside the MonOrchird.

Although it just opened four months ago inside the MonOrchid Building, Songbird Coffee & Tea House has proved to be a real hot spot in downtown Phoenix. My friends and I often pass the cafe located at 214 E. Roosevelt St. on First Friday or when we’re driving out of downtown; however, we never went inside until about a week ago. This probably goes without saying, but I loved it. I also got to sit down with one of the owners and learn all about the cafe on Monday.

Erin Carroll, 30, and her husband are the founders and managers of Songbird. Carroll had always dreamed of owning a cafe.

“I love coffee houses,” she explained. “I was in a job that I didn’t like and then my husband lost his job, so it made sense to start our own business. It took a lot of planning though, and it was over a couple of years in the works.”

Songbird features locally roasted coffee and pastries, tea from Tucson and a local burrito chef. They also offer a handful of vegan options and specialty drinks such as an espresso spritzer, which is kind of like a carbonated coffee drink. Their full menu can be found online at songbirdcoffeehouse.com.

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Songbird’s bright menu made of Scrabble letters adds to the arty vibe of the coffeehouse.

“We like having that connection to our products because we want to know who it’s coming from and have a relationship with them,” she said. “We also think supporting local products is a good thing to do.”

The coffee shop also strives to provide a comfortable atmosphere for its customers, according to Carroll who said she and her husband want people to stay and socialize, not just grab something and run out the door.

“We want to be a part of the community and offer a space for somebody to just come and get some work done or meet up with people over a cup of coffee,” she added.

The variety of free events they host and the art they showcase helps Songbird integrate itself into the community and is perfectly positioned on Roosevelt Row Arts District.

“We’ve done poetry readings, acoustic shows, storytelling and we even had a live rock concert last weekend,” she said.

“We want to give artists a place to show off their work and it’s nice to have rotating art in here,” Carroll said about the art on the wall that’s up for sale. “I think it’s important to keep art alive in the community because it gives people a purpose. And it’s a good way to connect to people.”

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One of the walls of the coffeehouse dedicated to showcasing and selling local artists’ work.

Since they are closed on Sundays and their hours are usually from 7 am to 7 pm, the majority of Songbird’s customers are young professionals and independent workers, but they are hoping to appeal to a wider range of people as well.

“There are a lot of really good cafes downtown, but what sets us apart is the relationships that we build with people since we’re so small,” Carroll said. “We also offer free Wi-Fi and would love for more students to come visit.”

Sophomore Regina Fanty, a student at Arizona State University, saw the cafe’s sign while they were still working on it and was intrigued by it, so she made sure to stop by once they opened.

“I love a good coffee shop,” Fanty explained. “It’s very quaint, and I love all the colors and the set up.”

Although there are many things that Fanty says attracted her to the cafe, she is a big fan of the “eclectic collection of books they have lining the walls for customers to read” and the menu made out of scrabble letters.

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Two shots of the cafe’s bookcase, featuring a tribute to ASU. Go Sun Devils!

“I would definitely recommend it to other college kids,” she said. “Their coffee was delicious, it was also relatively quiet and easy to focus.”

While she hasn’t attended one of their events yet, she “most certainly” would like to go to one in the future. Fanty also expressed her appreciation for the art on the wall, saying she loves discovering new artists and Songbird is “a great place to do so.”

In order to better connect with people, Songbird is very active on Twitter and Facebook as well. They constantly post information about upcoming events and tons of discounts, like 75 cents off a drink or a dollar off burritos.

“I had no idea they posted deals to their Twitter,” Fanty said. “I am going to follow them right this second!”
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Songbird offers a quaint environment for studying, conversing, admiring art or just purchasing a great cup of coffee and pastry.

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Fair Trade Cafe: integrating coffee and art ‘with a conscience’

Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? Do you know if the farmers cultivating your espresso beans are given adequate working conditions and decent wages? At Fair Trade Cafe, they take that sort of thing seriously. Located on Central and Roosevelt, in front of the light rail, Fair Trade opened about five years ago and has remained loyal to its founding values.

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Top left: The outside view of Fair Trade Cafe, found on Central and Roosevelt. Top right and bottom: Inside views of the coffee shop.

“The scope of the cafe is found right in its name,” barista Beau Feger-Owsley said. “It’s a company that makes fair trades to ensure that workers get paid well and that all of our coffee is locally roasted so customers know exactly where their product is coming from.”

Fair Trade’s ideology is advertised in their motto as well. The idea behind “Coffee with a Conscience” is displayed on their home page, http://www.azfairtrade.com, and there’s also a wall dedicated to the painting of the slogan right when you walk into the cafe.

Aside from their commitment to sell only fairly-traded products in their store, a number of other things set this cafe apart from others. Not only do they serve coffee and provide free Wi-Fi, their menu ranges from pastries and freshly-made sandwiches to smoothies, teas and even an ice-cream bar.

My friend got the original hummus and vegetable plate, and we both enjoyed iced Americanos. (photographed below) Both items were delicious!

The cafe also hosts special events such as independent movie premieres and shows by local bands. It stays open during First Friday art walks and since it includes an art gallery, it attracts people especially on those nights, according to Feger-Owsley. When asked about all the art hung up around the cafe that is available for purchase, he explained that Fair Trade is also a company that supports artists and their work.

“Art’s good,” Feger-Owsley replied. “It’s good for a city, and it’s good for people to be expressive. Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of that? It makes the shop look cool too.”

The coffee house is open until 10 p.m. every night and is just a light rail stop away from ASU downtown, but the walk there isn’t too bad if you choose that mode of transportation instead. There’s also another Fair Trade Cafe located in Civic Space Park right next to the downtown campus; however, its times vary and they don’t stay open after 7 p.m. The atmosphere and menu in both locations is quite similar though, there’s just more of a variety of customers at the Roosevelt one from what I’ve experienced.

Downtown ASU professor, Rosemarie Dombrowski, goes to the Civic Space Park location almost weekly. I first heard of the cafe when she suggested we meet there to go over one of my English papers last year, and it was obvious she was enthralled by it.

“I love the underground entrance, the patio and the water feature,” she said. “It’s visually interesting and has a relaxing, intellectually stimulating feel. They also have the best vegan cookies and donuts!”

The “Coffee with a Conscience” motto blended together with the artwork also keeps Dombrowski a Fair Trade regular. She wishes that “every business operated on that principle,” but feels that downtown Phoenix does a good job of mixing art into our everyday lives otherwise.

Finally, when asked to explain her absolute favorite thing about the coffee shop, Dombrowski stated it was their products and seating.

“The former are fresh, healthy, delicious and ethical,” she explained. “The latter is comfortable, fosters discussion and provides excellent spaces for workshops. I suppose that combination of elements coupled with art is very ‘college.'”

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Top: Some of the artwork displayed and available for purchase in the cafe. Bottom: The wall depicting Fair Trade’s motto, “Coffee with a Conscience.”