Monday, November 10, 2014

@ Phoenix Coffee in Cleveland Height's Cedar-Lee District

Hold The Coffee stops at its second Phoenix Coffee location this week with a visit to the newly renovated Cedar-Lee shop in Cleveland Heights.

Doug make his modeling debut on the Hold The Coffee blog
It seems like anytime I go to a Phoenix-branded coffee shop, I run a good risk of finding nowhere to sit--or at least comfortably sit. I figure it's probably because every young, wannabe hipster like myself goes to Pheonix with the same idea in mind: camp out for a few hours, work on a blog post, and spend a couple more hours reading news sites and blogs about what's the newest and greatest neighborhood development coming to Cleveland/Columbus/Buffalo.

Sure, over-crowding happens at a lot of coffee shops, but Phoenix, which is arguably Cleveland's most popular local roaster and brand, has the best track record I've seen around here. I remember the Phoenix in Cleveland Height's Coventry Village was once so unbearably packed my boyfriend and I got coffee to go and drove to Arabica Coffee House in Willoughby for our morning chit-chat. I am not saying overcrowding is a bad thing and shop managers should do crazy things like cut WiFi or ban computers. It just means the supply of independent coffee shops in a neighborhood hasn't met the consumers' demand.

Devon Turchan, friend and News-Herald co-worker, is
actually a barista at this Phoenix. He and his dad carved this
sign together as well as an identical one outside in the shop's
back patio.
I'd argue that is why there are two Phoenix Coffee shops less than two miles apart in the same city of Cleveland Heights.

Fellow News-Herald colleague Doug Vehovec and I ventured to Phoenix at 2287 Lee Road Sunday, Nov. 2 for an afternoon chit-chat mostly about blogging, comic books, news-writing, and the dichotomy of Cleveland's east and west side.

I've featured Phoenix's Coventry location in a previous blog post, and I plan to sometime feature the brand's Ohio City shop, which opened up this summer. (I also want to feature Phoenix's downtown shop, but it may need to expand it's weekend hours first.)

Phoenix has some lovely mugs. To bad I can never walk
still enough to keep the coffee from spilling.
Location: Cleveland Heights' Cedar-Lee District is a moderately dense neighborhood but isn't really considered a downtown, Nevertheless, it is well designed for pedestrians and cyclists with street and back-lot parking, and the neighborhood does include some multi-story, mixed-use buildings. The district's Phoenix is only in a one-story, single-use building like much of its neighbors.  This structural feature may not improve urban density, but at least the building doesn't have a frontal parking lot.

Keep in mind, however, that the municipal lot behind Pheonix is metered at all times and only accepts quarters. The city should consider expanding free weekend parking that at the moment is exclusive only for special seasons?

It didn't really matter much that Sunday, however, because I parked a half mile from Phoenix--like I always inexplicably do at coffee shops.

There's too many good things to say about Phoenix's interior.
Food and Beverage: Like most coffee shops, Phoenix on Lee Road is not a place you're going to want to relieve an empty stomach unless you don't mine filling up on bagels, scones and cookies.  (Diabetics beware!)

In addition to its menu of coffee and espresso drinks, which includes either pour-over or drip coffee, Phoenix also has an extended menu of teas at its counter.

That Sunday, I ordered a large drip coffee for myself and a medium sized cup of cappuccino for Doug at $6 and change.

Space and Atmosphere:  The first time I visited the Cedar-Lee coffee shop was earlier this summer, a few weeks before Phoenix began its interior renovation project. Apparently, work is still finishing up, but I was amazed Nov. 2 just how different the space was since my visit a few months prior. Luckily,I shot a couple photos of the interior before the project started.

This is the before photo from early August. Ew, I just can't
stand to look at it. (My photo skills probably don't help either.)
I may know nothing about interior decorating, but the space now just screams contemporary design with its white walls and ceiling, wood-style tile flooring, small ceiling light fixtures and three new bar stool areas geared for laptop workers. (The two waxed-finished slabs of wood are really cool.)

With WiFi as reliable as any Starbucks location and hours that go as late as 9 or 10 p.m., the Lee Road Phoenix is just the perfect atmosphere for getting work done. With the exception of a few groups, almost everyone I saw that Sunday was studiously "working" on their laptops or tablets. You couldn't really hear much chatter. It's a good thing the shop's speaker system plays only timeless rock hits.

Doug and I didn't have much trouble finding a small table when we met around noon. It was a far different story when I returned by myself at 3 p.m., to work on a blog post. Initially, I wasn't sure if there was anywhere I could sit, but I ultimately found some space against the window facade, which was blaring sunlight in my eyes for the first hour.

Here is the packed crowd from Nov. 2. People were on top
of one another.
I should probably note that I returned to the Cedar-Lee Phoenix the following Sunday, Nov. 9, and for the five hours I was there (don't judge me) finding a place to work wasn't a problem. Although it was still non-stop busy.

I'm sure Cedar-Lee's interior makeover is part of the reason for these enormous crowds. (As well as the excellent customer service and coffee.) Larger than that, however, is the fact that only a handful of independent coffee shops serve the area. I believe this need will be on its way to being satiated when Coffeehouse at 185th and Bright Coffee Bar open this fall and spring in Collinwood, and when Coffee Phix Cafe re-opens its new shop in South Euclid sometime this year.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH. 

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