There’s just one croissant left at the Cartel Roasting Co. coffee/pastry shop in a renovated 1915 Craftsman bungalow on 7th Street. Fat, flaky and fragrant, it’s pastry perfection — buttery layers lifted into a lofty crescent, the layers so thin they’re almost translucent.
Paired with a cup of fresh-brewed cappuccino, it’s a sublime start to this sunny day on the patio, where guests can meet up with friends or go solo, pop open a laptop and while away the morning.
It’s the ambience owners Jason and Amy Silberschlag envisioned when they began their business in Tempe almost 15 years ago.
Jason was a youth pastor, while Amy worked at home raising three foster boys. Being a youth pastor wasn’t the right fit, and Jason looked for another career path, one that would allow the couple to collaborate.
“Most people spend their whole days apart,” Amy said. “We wanted to do something together.”
“We said ‘Let’s do a coffee cart,’” Jason said.
There was one big hurdle to overcome: Amy didn’t like coffee. That could be a game-changer, but Jason persisted.
He traveled to Guatemala to visit a coffee farm and learn about beans literally from the ground up. His education included trade shows, and at one he purchased a home espresso machine and started making coffee for Amy.
“We got beans from specialty coffee roasters, lightly roasted, as opposed to nuked,” Amy said. “It was the first time I had tasted coffee that way.”
She grew to love the brew, and the pair were on their way.
“We transitioned to become a roasting company with a coffee cart and a few chairs in front, and people just kept coming,” Amy said.
Their original location is in Tempe, just off Mill Avenue in the Maple-Ash neighborhood. Today, they have 13 locations, the newest due to open this month on the ASU campus. That will make nine in the Valley, two in Tucson, one in Palm Springs, California, and one in Austin, Texas. Their Valley locations include a shop in North Central Phoenix, inside the Rise Uptown Hotel, in a renovated office building at 4th Avenue and Camelback.
Where possible, they found locations with character. “I love the materials and shape of old buildings,” Amy said.
“It’s more work than to build new, but it’s worth it,” Jason said.
Jason took on skills that were far removed from running an espresso machine.
“By necessity, he learned to weld,” Amy said. “Every time we needed something, he would go to the scrap yard and pick up some metal and make what we needed.”
Customers and neighbors pitched in, one donating a chess set, another bringing a small side table.
“They grew with us,” Amy said. “Coffee brings people together, and we were inspired to help facilitate this community through our company.”
“The idea was always that it would be a community gathering place,” Jason said.
Their commitment begins with their own small community — their employees.
“We feel really strongly about being a good place to work — taking care of our employees,” Amy said. “We’ve been fortunate to have people who stuck it out.”
Giving employees opportunities to grow and be included in decision-making was key. “Our entire leadership team, with one exception, were all baristas,” Jason said.
This month, the company is set to open a 12,000-square-foot production facility, including a cold brewing and canning line, a full commercial bakery, and upgraded roasting capabilities.
“We’ll be able to produce the pastries more affordably, but also at a higher level,” Jason said.
They’ll go on shelves along with products ranging from whole beans to canned cold-brew and branded merchandise, including mugs and logo-emblazoned beanies. Customers also can subscribe online to regular coffee deliveries.
“We have a huge cold-brew following,” Amy said. To handle demand, they built a centralized brewery, producing canned cold-brew.
Jason pours out samples. “It’s an Ethiopian natural, single-origin cold brew, from one part of one farm,” he said. “They dry the fruit on the bean, so you’re getting clean, floral, sweet flavors, almost berry and chocolate. The skin dries so the sugar from the fruit is saturating the beans, and you get a different flavor profile than washed coffee.”
It’s a long way from that first coffee cart, and the couple is ready to chill for a while.
Their fostered boys are grown, and the Silberschlags have three children of their own, just getting to the age where they can work in the shops if they wish.
Meanwhile, the couple is living their dream, working together and fostering community through their business.
“We do something that is very close to my heart,” Amy said. “Our guiding principle of why we do what we do is, with everything we do, we try to do the next right thing, for humanity and our earth and our team.”
Cartel Roasting Co. has 13 locations, including 2201 N. 7th St., and in the Rise Uptown Hotel, 400 W. Camelback Rd. Those locations are open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website, https://cartelroasting.co.