On a sunny Thursday afternoon in January, every wooden picnic table on the Luana’s Coffee & Beer patio was full. As the afternoon turned to evening, laptops closed for the day and coffee drinks were replaced with craft beer.
Trivia was scheduled for later that night, a weekly ritual for customers to test their knowledge and have some fun. It was the last trivia night at Luana’s for the foreseeable future.
Luana’s has called the historic Helen Anderson House on McDowell Road and Third Avenue home for two years. But now the landlord has sold the building, forcing the coffee shop to move.
“This place has a big sentimental value for me,” said Luana’s owner Aaron Schofield. “I was working so hard to be able to purchase the place, but we couldn’t match cash.”
Luana’s has history with the Anderson House
Schofield first learned to make coffee in the Anderson House when it was home to HobNob’s Food and Spirits. He worked there for about a year, until he branched out to start his own coffee cart, Luana’s Coffee Yard.
The little turquoise coffee trailer popped up around the Valley, slinging drinks with Luana’s signature creative labels and artwork.
Then, in early 2020, Schofield and his girlfriend Kylee Roberts returned to Anderson House to open their brick and mortar. They set about filling the space with vintage and antique furniture.
The record player, plant pots and much of the furniture belonged to Schofield’s grandmother. Schofield remembers his grandfather always sitting in his favorite orange velvet chair watching CNN. At Luana’s, that chair sat prominently in the main dining room next to a pool table. The coffee shop itself is named after Schofield’s grandmother “Tutu” Luana.
“The whole thing pays homage to my childhood and my family,” he said “It’s like a cross between a bachelor pad meets your grandma’s house.”
Building community despite COVID
After working so hard to build out the space, Luana’s was open on McDowell Road for about a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Schofield said.
When businesses shut down, Schofield shifted gears and started serving takeout orders.
“I spray painted a drive thru on the parking lot and I would sit here and play video games on the projector waiting for people to come and place orders like every 30 minutes,” he said.
He also started a Coffee for Heroes project, bringing coffee to healthcare workers at hospitals across the Valley.
Despite the pandemic, the community support for Luana’s continued to grow. As the pandemic went through different peaks and lows, Luana’s was able to reopen the patio and then indoor seating. Events like trivia night returned and the coffee shop was full again.
Luana’s became a destination for people to work, students from nearby Phoenix College and the downtown ASU campus to study and friends to catch up over coffee.
“Once we were attracting more people who wanted to work here, that signified to me that real community growth was happening,” Schofield said.
That sense of community was why Schofield dreamed of opening a coffee shop in the first place, he said.
“I didn’t even drink coffee in the beginning, but I always wanted a coffee shop because of what it does for the community,” he said.
Luana’s loses its home on McDowell
Last fall, Schofield’s landlord put the historic house on the market and before long, he received an offer. A company from California set out to buy the building and they wanted Luana’s to stay, Schofield said.
“So we stopped our own search because we thought it was going to be okay,” he said.
But then at the last minute, the buyers backed out and the house was back on the market.
Schofield worked to gain bank approval to put in an offer of his own to buy the historic house, but by mid-December, another offer had been made and accepted. Schofield said that his financed offer wasn’t enough to beat a cash buyer.
“The new company didn’t want anything to do with us,” Schofield said. “So, in 30 days, I’ve had to find a place to move my business as quick as possible.”
What’s next for Luana’s
Moving is the last thing Schofield wanted to do, but the situation is bittersweet, he said. After a very accelerated search, he found a new spot to open.
Luana’s is moving into the old Mu Shu Asian Grill on 15th Avenue and Thomas Road. The wooden structure doesn’t have the “old world charm” of the historic house on McDowell, Schofield said, but it will offer more space, more parking and a full kitchen.
“It’s going to provide twice the seating, but half the character,” Schofield said. “But I believe we have the ability to make it special.”
The new space will be “heavy on billiards” Schofield said. There will be a dart board, and shuffle board in addition to the pool table. He plans to paint the space dark slate gray and install unique lighting.
A full kitchen will allow for an expanded food menu, with Korean dishes highlighting Roberts’ heritage. The duo also plan to hire a full-time baker to create fresh pastries.
“It’s going to be like if ‘Mad Men’ was a coffee shop,” Schofield said, “It’s going to be so bad ass.”
While the new space is under construction, Luana’s blue coffee cart will be stationed outside, providing coffee for guests and hours and tips for employees.
Schofield hopes to welcome the “Luana’s army” of customers to the new location by the end of February.
“We’ve grown deep enough roots here that I think we can blow with the wind a few miles north and they’ll come wherever we are,” he said.
Details: 1502 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix. Follow construction progress on Luana’s social media @luanas_coffee_and_beer.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tirionmorris, on Facebook at Tirion Rose and on Instagram at tirionrose.
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