I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Gomez from Inza Coffee. Located at Shea Blvd. and the 101 freeway in Scottsdale, she and her husband along with her cousin recently purchased Common Ground Coffee House and have just renamed it Inza Coffee.
Chris Tingom: I’m here with Linda Gomez and you are the owner of Inza Coffee along with two others. Why did you buy the coffee shop?
Linda Gomez: Well it is a very peculiar way that everything happened. We had in mind the idea of wanting our own business and of course my cousin, too.
We were looking in the papers and we were able to find that there were several coffee shops for sale downtown. When we contacted one of our friends that gives us the coffee here he told us he would be looking out for us if we were really interested in a coffee shop.
He happened to run into a very nice man who owned this place before and talked to him about the possibility of selling it and even though the person that owned it before was not thinking about selling it, he ended up changing his mind when he met us and we ended up doing business. We just went with our feeling that this was the right place to be and that the person who was here needed to have some time off to himself and that it was the right decision to make. So it was all just like something fell from the sky.
How long has this coffee shop been in this location?
Since 1997. It’s been almost 9 years and its gone through several ownerships. It was purchased from being an independent coffee house into a corporation and then another corporation later purchased it. The gentleman that found out about it ended up negotiating and even paying fees and dues that were late and saving the coffee house. This will always be kind of like his place, because he was able to make it an amazing place to hang out.
It’s a nice atmosphere, are you planning on keeping it like this?
Yes, if we plan to do anything we plan to do more improvements to make it even cozier. Bring more artistic portraits from local artists whether their painters or photographers. We’re just planning to make it better.
Where does the name Inza Coffee come from?
When I was looking into names I wanted something that was easy to pronounce. That was curious enough to cause people to come and find out about it. I had several names that were common but at the same time were very logical like “Jumping Bean” or “Java Bean” and I thought I’d better get something a little catchier. So I did a little study of the best marketing names out there. More than a couple of the famous names out there have only four letters. When I was looking into towns that produced coffee and looking for coffee cupping on the internet I came up with a town in Columbia that won the 1st place for the best cup of coffee in the world last year. And the town is Insa and when I thought about it the pronunciation had to be changed to make it more accommodating. So instead of Insa, we decided to name it Inza which is a little easier to pronounce and we just bring that in with the main thing which we sell which is coffee.
So does the coffee come from Inza?
The coffee right now is not coming from Inza because we have not found the right broker. They do not produce massively. We are looking for a broker that can bring us some coffee from that region which is a very good coffee.
How did you get your start in coffee and specifically when did you get your start in coffee?
Coffee is a passion for Columbian people. It is something that we have ever since we were little. We wake up to have a cup of coffee, we meet with people in the afternoon for coffee, and we sometimes go to bed with a cup of coffee and slice of bread.
So it is really something in our blood. In my case particularly the culture of coffee and all that it involves is absolutely fascinating. When we were having our jazz night last night you will precisely comprehend what I talk about. There were so many artists in here from musicians and painters and dreamers and poets. It brings the best in people I believe. It is very romantic.
So it sounds like Thursday nights are the night to come?
Yes, yes. It was a lot of fun last night. We had two saxophone players, a clarinet, a piano player, a drummer, a base, two guitarist, harmonica’s, and a lady singer that also plays the saxophone. It was a melting pot of art. It was such a beautiful energy in here, it was amazing.
Is that a regular event?
Every Thursday and it’s open for all musicians. Usually people come over and bring their instrument and their music. Usually because music is a world language – it doesn’t need translation, you can pretty much share with everybody and everybody can play to the same tune. It’s a wonderful experience.
How would you say Inza Coffee is different from other coffee shops?
First of all, we have pride in our product. We are very picky about the coffee that we share and if you can tell as you sip into your coffee you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
I notice you do a lot of coffee art, tell me about that?
Yes, every cup. Coffee involves art and art has to be in everything. Particularly my barista’s who work behind the counter are very proud of what they do and how they make those coffee’s look when they come out from behind the espresso machine onto the counter. They’re very particular about how they look. And we have learned tricks. It’s just amazing.
Thinking about that, what qualities do you think a barista should have?
One of the biggest qualities has to be personality. You have to be open to understand the world as it comes. Not be peculiar about people but be more open minded – flexible. That’s the first thing. And then have a lot of love for the art and what you do. Because every time you make a cup of coffee you can either make it really good or you can make it really bad and it could be the same amount of water, the same bean, and the same everything. But for some strange reason of the universe if you don’t make that cup of coffee with the passion that you have it is not going to take the same. I assure you of that. And I think that’s what makes us different. That we’re very personalized, that’s going back to your question. We’re very peculiar about the way we present things and do things and I think that’s going to make us #1.
Do you have any favorite blends or origins?
Yes I do. I have to be biased on the origin. I love Columbian coffee.
You’re from Columbia?
I’m from Columbia. But not because I’m from Columbia, but because the Columbian coffee I have tasted is very soothing and very smooth. It is extremely rich in the aroma of coffee. And I absolutely love aroma’s.
I like Costa Rican also. It’s a very good coffee. It’s pretty much close to a Columbian coffee. In fact if I was to have one cup of each I probably couldn’t tell one from another. That would be another one of my favorites.
I noticed you play a lot of music in the store, and also on jazz night and so forth. What kind of music do you like to listen to yourself and in the store?
International. Celtic music is beautiful, Columbian rhythms are beautiful. Andean rhythms from the Andes are amazing, that’s as peaceful as it gets.
Jazz of course – you know, going back to Fitzgerald, Armstrong, and Miles Davis. We have a little bit of everything and we go around purchasing CDs from different parts of the world. Our world is a tiny little world rich in culture and we need to share it.
What’s your most popular drink?
I would say the latte by itself. It sells a lot. The vanilla latte’s. And because of the location being that we’re next to a gym usually you get them in a skinny. Because it’s nonfat.
Do you have any plans for the rest of the 2006 calendar year?
Yes we do. We want to have a calendar of events in which every day we have something going on. We want to have a gallery collection of different artists. We want to have jewelry artists, we want to have poetry nights and international nights.
With three owners, how do you share responsibilities?
It’s actually been quite easy believe it or not. My husband is pretty good keeping the building, inventory, and future planning.
I’ve been doing a lot of management, the paperwork part, and the socializing. I love that part. Being able to sit with customers is my favorite part of the day.
And then my cousin is into the marketing. Taking care of the business cards, offers and interviews. It’s been a wonderful conjunction of teamwork. We are a team and we do everything in equal parts.
Would you ever think about opening a second location?
If we were to do so — we thought about it — I don’t want to change anything. If anything duplicate everything exactly the same as we have here. When it comes to the latte art, the service, the coffee. You know, not so much the looks because I think the looks are not what makes a place but what’s in it.
One last question, what do you think about the growth of Starbucks and how that has affected the coffee industry in America?
Starbucks. A group of genius. I would say genius in the sense that they are extremely good at marketing, and extremely good at making things easy and accessible.
This has been a country in that we’re so used to being in our car. Used to things being given to use quick. We forget about relaxing and making a difference in our day. You would be surprised how many people have come here because they know we take a little longer preparing the coffee. A little more love and dedication.
It’s interesting the way they marketed their place. I don’t think their product will ever be superior to ours. I honestly can tell you that 120% assured. The marketing plan they have is probably something all of us will admire. They have an amazing empire.
In conclusion, tell people how to find Inza Coffee, what your hours are, and how to find more information.
When it comes to Inza Coffee the best thing they should be looking into is a place where they can go to relax. To break away from the boredom day and the rush, rush of traffic.
We are located on Shea and the 101. At the northwest side of the street next to the Bally’s gym. Even though we don’t have a sign up yet we’re right in the corner.
We are open from Monday though Wednesday from 6 am to 7 pm, and Thursday’s and Friday’s 6 am to 9:30 pm and even later. On Saturday’s we’re open from 7 am to 9:30 pm and Sunday’s 7 am to 7 pm.
We have tango dancing on Sunday afternoons. We have the Refresh Phoenix meetings every first Tuesday of the month. We get a lot of young creative minds in here for that. On Thursday nights we have our jazz nights. We’re going to be bringing a couple of gentlemen that make wonderful music sounds on Friday nights here. During the day on Saturday between we have a guitar player who sings beautifully and makes everything cozier.
Thank you Linda, the café seems to be buzzing right now and I’m excited to have interviewed you.
Thank you so much, thank you Chris.
8658 E Shea Blvd #1