Caffe Vita, a new cafe plans to open in Phoenix this summer

On Fifth Avenue and McDowell Road, next to the new Rose’s by the Stairs brewery, a construction crew works on a brick building in triple-digit heat. “We’re hiring,” reads a sign out front. “Opening soon,” said another.

The once bright yellow building that housed Easley’s Fun Shop for 72 years will soon become the first Phoenix location of Seattle-based coffee shop Caffe Vita. Espresso drinks, pours, pastries and funky jams will replace Marvel costumes and fake blood.

“Caffe Vita is a classic, old-school, new-school coffee roaster that sits in the middle of specialty coffee and what we call second-wave or Starbucks coffee,” says Kate Van Petten, Director marketing of Caffe Vita.

Van Petten explains that many Seattlelite snowbirds who migrate to Phoenix for the winter have been craving a fix of hometown coffee. Some have requested a location in the desert.

“We just knew if we had this high demand and an already built and existing community there, it was time to do something about it,” Van Petten said.

This will be the ninth location for Caffe Vita, which opened its first in Seattle in 1995 and currently has stores spread across Seattle, Portland and New York. Four sites closed during the pandemic, including one in Los Angeles. The Phoenix store, which will roast its beans on site, will be the first to open since.

Caffe Vita will offer the usual suspects, including lattes, espressos, and more, but the menu will change accordingly to meet customer needs in a city much hotter than other cafes.

“There will be a lot more frozen drinks, cold brews, lemonades and teas,” said owner and CEO Deming Maclise. “I always like to leave a good place for what the public wants. So we’ll come up with our ideas and listen and take feedback while we’re at it.

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Construction crews work on the new cafe at McDowell Road.

Natasha Yee

Locally baked pastries, a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito will also be on the menu, he says, although Caffe Vita is always on the lookout for the right baker.

Maclise, who sports long hair and a laid-back attitude, moved from California to Seattle in 1991 to play music. He worked as a barista to pay the bills. Despite his initial ambitions, the cafe life stuck and he ran a few independent cafes before opening his own shop.

Along the way, Maclise developed a wholesale relationship with Caffe Vita, an existing brand. He takes possession of the company in 2020 without forgetting his musical roots. Caffe Vita’s Seattle Center location shares space with KEXP-FM, an indie rock radio station. In Phoenix, he plans a DJ booth and a partnership with Record Bar Radio, a collection of independent DJs who play sets at venues like Crescent Ballroom and Walter Studios.

“We always want to promote music in general because 30-50% of the people who work here are musicians and that’s a big part of who we are and where we come from,” says Maclise.

It’s also planning live music in conjunction with Rose’s by the Stairs, a new brewery that has taken over the west side of Easley’s Fun Shop and shares a patio with the cafe. Brewery owner Jordan Ham says he can’t wait for his new neighbor to open. He hopes to one day brew a beer with Caffe Vita beans.

“I think the owners are great people. I’m excited to turn Easley’s into something really cool. It’s stayed there, it’s got all that history,” Ham said.

Now the bright yellow building on McDowell Road begins its next chapter, this one filled with all things brewing. Caffe Vita is planning a soft opening on July 1, followed by an official opening party on July 30.