Roughly 10 years ago, you couldn’t keep a coffeehouse not named Starbucks open in the southeast—R.I.P. Rock n’ Java and Canvas Cafe—or pretty much anywhere in town, for that matter. Now, the area has become awash with them. Eastern Avenue alone has four independent java joints that have opened within the past five months (Pour, Coffee Hunter, Globe Cafe and Bad Owl Coffee), along with the Tangerine Cafe & Espresso Bar, which arrived last May.
With so many competitors in the Henderson/Silverado Ranch region, it’s a wonder 8-year-old Sunrise Coffee is so packed on a recent Monday afternoon. But (mostly) students fill its tables, tapping their pens to the Public Enemy and Lou Reed tunes pumping lightly from the PA. Co-owner Juanny Romero actually attributes Sunrise’s continued success to the competition, which also includes neighborhood hang Grouchy John’s (which doubled in size last year), the enduring Madhouse Coffee, Paseo Verde Library’s Coffee Press and Coffee House on Water Street.
“The more coffee shops that open, the more people appreciate what we do as an integral part of their neighborhood,” Romero says, adding that she and her partner Joshua Walter opened Mothership Coffee Roasters just a mile and a half east last year largely to educate would-be café proprietors and create a coffeehouse culture like that in the Pacific Northwest.
Also adopting a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats mantra and drawing inspiration from Seattle and Portland (where she earned her barista certification) is Pour owner Deborah Armstrong. She’s not only engaging the community with events, but attempting to steer people away from Starbucks’ homogeneity of convenience. “We’re bringing more than that,” she says. “It takes skill to generate a great-tasting drink. I think a lot of people appreciate that.” Once you sample one of her ice-blended specialties, you’ll never seek out a Frappuccino again.