Dishing Out Local Love: Fair Trade Cafe

by Mychael Ramirez

According to Local First Arizona, a nonprofit organization that celebrates independent businesses throughout Arizona, downtown businesses have seen anywhere from an 80 to 100 percent decrease in profits over the last few months. Recognizing the need, Suns Charities huddled up with Local First and Devin Booker and committed to supporting downtown Phoenix-area restaurants and food vendors with $100,000 in funding that will go towards helping feed the hungry in our community. As part of the Suns’ Small Business Assist program, Fair Trade Cafe has received $5,000 that will underwrite meals for those in need.

To spotlight the participating businesses, we connected with Fair Trade Cafe Owner Stephanie Vasquez, who shared more about the local restaurant, the partnership with the Phoenix Suns and giving back to the community.

Fair Trade Cafe

Fair Trade Cafe (1020 N 1st Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003) recently provided meals for the Phoenix Dream Center, a nonprofit that serves the homeless, low income families and at-risk youth of Arizona.

Can you provide a little history of Fair Trade Cafe?

We are the longest-standing coffee house in Downtown Phoenix, I opened Fair Trade Cafe in 2007 and we serve all-organic shade-grown coffee and teas. We source locally and bake everything in-house with love and intention.

I was a former educator, teaching science to children and on a vacation trip to Costa Rica, I went to a coffee plantation. I was blown away to see the people cultivating the land with such pride and love. When I returned home, I was still in such awe and realized as consumers we don’t always know the impact we can have on others and the earth. I had a fire within me to bring awareness to conscientious consumerism with coffee being the second-most traded commodity and it’s extremely exploited. There was a lot of work to do, it wasn’t necessarily about coffee at first, it was about the awareness of consumers and the impact that we can have is where the idea for the shop really came from.

What drives the passion behind the menu at Fair Trade Cafe?

Intentionality. Everything we do at Fair Trade is done intentionally for the better good. At the end of the day, the roots of everything we do at the shop we do out of love and intention. For example, everything in the shop is made from recycled wood and we compost. We’re a 97 percent green business, one of the first to be acknowledged by the City of Phoenix. There’s so much of what we do with a purpose, so to sum it all up in a single word it would be intentionality. 



What does it mean to you to be a part of the Downtown Phoenix culture?

I remember when I started in 2007, to think where we were as a city and where we are now is night and day. It’s been incredible to see what we’ve been able to do, block by block, to create this beautiful city and the culture that has grown with it. I absolutely love being a part of it and having been able to witness the growth of Phoenix through the years.

How important is giving back to the community to Fair Trade Cafe and what does it mean to you to team up with the Phoenix Suns?

Oh, its 100 percent important to us, that is the foundation of the business, it’s what we are all about. We strive to raise awareness and encourage collaboration that benefits all and create win-wins for everyone. The Suns are such a huge part of the culture of Phoenix and for that collaboration to happen is beautiful! It really does show how communal our city is. I think that’s why so many of us love Phoenix, because its this huge city and it still has a small-town feel.

What are your current restaurant capabilities and what are some current offerings you would like to highlight?

Right now, we are continuing curbside and delivery only and everything you order from the shop is and always will be freshly prepared, baked, and made-to-order in-house here at Fair Trade. We bake all day, every day and anything you order will be mind-blowing. I think it’s very important to keep everyone safe on both sides of the counter, so we’ll continue to offer curbside pickup and delivery until its safe for guests to come back in for the full Fair Trade Cafe experience.

Why is it important to support local businesses?



To me, I think my success means nothing if the person next to me isn’t successful. I’m the founder of a local nonprofit that helps small businesses grow and it is crucial to support local businesses. It’s crucial to Phoenix and to our economy to ensure small businesses survive.

How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your business model?

Our Cafe is really a great place for social gathering and its been impacted since the beginning of the pandemic, it hit fast, and it hit hard. I have witnessed the Light Rail expansion, downtown expansion and the economic downturn and nothing has come close to this experience. We shut down initially, Phoenix still isn’t the same where it was and as a true businesswoman, the pivot and innovation are key to keep us going. We’ve transitioned 100 percent to curbside and delivery only which is not the Fair Trade way of coming into the Cafe and having an authentic experience. I look forward to serving everyone one day again in the future the way we intended.

What is it going to take for small businesses to survive this difficult time?

You have to be able to be flexible. However, in a time like this, we must financially support each other and be innovative to figure out how to sustain the businesses because the vibrancy of Phoenix depends on the culture the local businesses have created. At the end of the day it's money, we need to keep the phones ringing and consumers placing orders, it is all about supporting local right now.

To support this local business, you can browse Fair Trade’s menu of organic coffees and teas, in-house baked goods or artisan-crafted sandwiches by visiting AZFairTrade.com or follow them on Instagram at @FairTradeCafeAZ. Stay tuned for more local restaurant profiles from the Phoenix Suns in the coming weeks.

 

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