I have always been a sucker for bookstores. So when I pulled up to Jobot Coffee along the hip tranquility of 5th & Roosevelt and noticed an old house with the sign “Lawn Gnome Books,” I was hooked. This sleepy venue had no more immediacy than an abandoned lemonade stand but I could easily sense that I was blind to what it had to offer. Presently, I decided to cross over and open my eyes. I browsed the shelves and discovered that this was, in fact, a local publishing house. During my brief visit, the two staff members — each in separate rooms and on their own laptop computers — simultaneously erupted in smug delight over the just-then published web article in which USA Today declared this very plot of downtown Phoenix (a.k.a., Roosevelt Row) as one of the “10 best neighborhoods that tourists haven’t found yet.” How embarrassing: I was this close to having the entire nation beat me to discovering the gem in my own backyard.
As I made my way over to Jobot Coffee I could see the entire block, both sides, were historic homes in varying states of disrepair and mostly home to distinct local businesses: the Lost Leaf (selling craft beer), Think! (graphic art and printing), Missconstrued Boutique, MADE Art Boutique (featured in the USA Today online article), and others. I felt as though I was trespassing through someone’s backyard. When I entered Jobot, the main room sizzled with indirect sunlight and I was immediately and warmly greeted. After asking for and accepting a recommendation on what was good to eat I explained that I was on sort of a “pub crawl” to discover local coffeehouses…for a “project.” With a mix of healthy circumspection and unaffected confidence one staff member was willing to talk with me, in-between taking customer orders. As I waited for my food, I had the opportunity to conduct an informal interview. While the conversation was fluid, I closely followed a preconceived list of questions (see bottom of page) that I thought could help me get a feel for the community particular to this coffeehouse and what might set it apart from other, nearby coffeehouses. Our interview proceeded in the main room which is dominated by a large bar with eight stools with just enough room left over for a couple of tall, round tables with a couple of stools each. I’m at the bar and the music, a mix of groovy and urban hip, is loud above the din of the coffeehouse and I dutifully take notes…
Jobot is located in the middle of the arts district and intentionally participates in the synergy of the arts community and local business. There are about five local coffee shops within a mile of this community and Jobot (my interviewee often refers to “we” as a conglomeration of the owners and employees) distinguishes “itself” by being “much more laid back” and a “little gritty” which is “its” way of being honest and unpretentious. Jobot Coffee cultivates community by participating in events as a member of “5th Street” which has a strong identity and practice of hosting multiple stages and activities during local events such as the monthly Art Walk. During the weekends (when most of these events take place) they are open 24 hours/day. Jobot displays, promotes, and sells local products every day (e.g., shirts and locally roasted coffee from Cartel Coffee Lab). Locals account for about 80% of the client traffic as well as about 80% of return business. Clientele is comprised of students from ASU downtown campus, long-time residents of downtown, and other varied patrons but not many from Scottsdale. Jobot now considers itself more as a café than a coffeehouse but it still maintains “the heart of a coffee shop” because that is how it started, with just a few treats. The food offerings have grown; bake their goods in-house. Their coffee service remains a point of pride. When I told my interviewee that Jobot was identified by Foursquare as a “best of” destination she did not know. When I mentioned that the neighborhood had just been declared an undiscovered tourist destination, this was news. I got the impression that the local “take” meant more than these large, national voices. Jobot Coffee has a Facebook page and it is maintained by a core group of current and past employees. Otherwise, there is no online advertising; for the most part their online and offline strategy is simply this: word-of-mouth.
I got my food and thanked my interviewee and set myself up in one of the two side rooms. I’m here during the lunch hour and it is active. Everyone is socializing, including the small groups of students at laptop computers, accessing the free, unrestricted wi-fi. It is a young adult crowd; 20s to 30s. In addition to the front room, there are three other areas: the front patio and lawn(seating 42-48), a side room (seating 11-12), and a back room (seating 12). It is in an old house and, aside from the repainted walls (alternating gray-blue and butter yellow), much of the worn look has been retained. All of the furniture is mismatched and suggests that the place is one, large tree house. An old linen closet sans door is the designated bulletin board with four shelves stocked with flyers, posters, and postcards for local venues and events. Artwork is hanging on every wall, even 2-3 items on a wall in some cases. Half the art work is framed; all of the art work features robots. I devour my amazing lunch and leave a tip about it on Foursquare.
The following video uploaded in 2011 shines a local spotlight on Jobot Coffee. Says the owner: “What sets us apart from other coffee shops is that we’re really connected with the community.”
Analysis of User-Generated Tips
What isn’t readily apparent from a cursory look at the user-generated tips from Foursquare is the subtext of “place” underlying these remarks. Of the 70 tips left by Foursquare users, 7 (10%) specifically refer to place. All five of our coffeehouses considered, this is average. However, these remarks also (1) are consistently accompanied with a declaration (i.e., signifying “love,” [goodness], or “best”), (2) usually reference [space], (3) are in no cases accompanied with a directive (i.e., “go,” “get,” etc.) or unrelated content and (4) are generally and concurrently praising the coffee, the food/beverage, the ambiance and the staff/service. In other words, the following seven tips received more “likes” (collectively) and more frequent praise (on average) than any other sampling of place-based remarks for any of the other four coffeehouses in this study.
- I love the cozy space and friendly people. The soy latte is fantastic. 
- Chorizo crepe w/o the chorizo is great. I sub avacado or an extra egg. I heart this place – it’s open til midnight, has a cozy atmosphere, and friendly staff. 
- Best place downtown to eat and grab a coffee Read more 
- Best of Phoenix Winner 2011: Best Coffee House, Downtown Phoenix & Best Place to Take a Scenester.Special blend of locally famed Cartel coffee,homemade scones, & even crepes.Open 24 hrs on Fri. & Sat. Read more 
- holy crepes! hello…one of the best places downtown, staff was super awesome too! 
- Good coffee,good vibes and chill people LOCALS ONLY ! Lol 
- Come by before class or work and grab a great cup of coffee and a crepe. The atmosphere is unbeatable. They are also open really late unlike most places in Phoenix. 
Table 1. Other subjects are concurrently and equally included with “place”
Table 2. For declaratives and other references to “local” there exists a direct correlation; however, for references to directives there is an inverse correlation. These direct and indirect relationships do not emerge when looking at tips with the same criteria for the other coffeehouses.
|181||Love, [Goodness]||Place, Space|
|185||Love, [Goodness]||Place, Space|
|297||Best||Place, Space, Artisinal|
The above comments have been transcribed verbatim from foursquare.com and are wholly user-generated.
|Prepared list of questions for on-site interviews|
Other characteristics under consideration when conducting my time in the field (at the coffeehouse)
- Does it have local art on display?
- Is there a bulletin board, in one form or another?
- Are there “local” architectural elements
- Is there a logo and what might it suggest?
- Are there food offerings (i.e., what does the menu suggest about how long a typical visit might be, whether over a muffin or an entire meal). What is on the menu?
- Note the décor.
- Observe the music/noise.
- Consider the location in relation to the city and what is nearby.
- Is there wi-fi; is it… available, free, advertised, secured (requiring a password)?
• Lawn Gnome Publishing
• 10 Best Neighborhoods that Tourists Haven’t Found Yet | usatoday.com
• Jobot Coffee on Facebook
• Jobot Coffee on Foursquare
• Jobot Coffee on Yelp!
• Jobot | PHX Rail Food blog
• Jobot Coffee | official website (recently offline)
• Jobot Coffee on Tumblr
• Jobot Review | Downtown Devil “News for the Urban Sundevil”
• Jobot profile NewsWatch, Juan Magana | YouTube