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Once popular 'Coffee Grounds' reincarnated - againe

By: Jeff Burns

Sept. 23, 2006

Within the south Tempe Lakes community there sits a restaurant that brings back sentimental memories of great food, friendly staff and a fun place to hang out.

The restaurant—which hugs the coast of the lake—has gone by various names, including Coffee Grounds, Culinary Cafe and The Boathouse.

But within the last few years the restaurant has struggled. The regulars began to disappear and business began to decline.

Now, Al Taylor, owner of the newly renamed Pier 54, says he hopes to bring the restaurant’s ambiance back to rival that of its glory days.

Duane Charlton originally bought the property near the lake in 1991 and began the legacy of Coffee Grounds.

“It was about making our customers happy,” Charlton said. “We were honest, and our employees were unique.”

Coffee Grounds grew to be a place around the neighborhood where people could eat dinner, enjoy night entertainment, and talk to the always-friendly staff.  When business began to slow down, Charlton tried to make additions such as adding a bar.

After Charlton sold the business several years ago, the restaurant went through a series of name changes and ownership.

What happened to the magnetism of the original Coffee Grounds?

Concludes Taylor:

It simply had too many “personalities.”

Taylor says he is prepared to revamp the business—he and his wife already own the catering service Special Moments, which has received four service awards within the last three years, including the 2006 Southwest Airlines Service With a Smile Award.

The first goal Taylor hopes to accomplish is to win back the neighborhood. He continues to clean, scrub and paint the business so that the facade will resemble a coastal eatery.

With the dedication and worth ethic that he honed while previously working as a Tempe police lieutenant, Taylor plans on showing the true potential of Pier 54.

Taylor has already upgraded the business with the addition of an espresso machine and a faster register.

In addition to the new coffee, Taylor and his wife plan to bring in baked goods that are guaranteed fresh—because the couple baked them.

Taylor also says he added pastas and fish to the menu in order to add variety.

“We are used to running a successful catering business, so we know that we can provide a high quality of food but still have competitive prices,” Taylor said.

In addition to improving the quality of food, Taylor added two chefs from Scottsdale Culinary Institute who plan to come up with a new dish every weekend.

Pier 54 is even Internet-ready, with wireless adaptors ready for anyone who would like to surf the Web while enjoying a meal and the lakefront view.

While he can’t guarantee that Pier 54 will resemble Coffee Grounds of the early '90s, Taylor says the new owners will still provide a staff focused on excellent and friendly customer service and the bar that has already attracted regulars.

Charlton, meanwhile, is optimistic about its new turnaround.

“I hear from a lot of people that (Taylor) is the guy who can do it right,” Charlton said. “I’ve heard he was the real deal. I might even stop by.”

It was actually Coffee Grounds that helped Taylor and his wife make important decisions that helped lead to their success with Special Moments.

“We used to sit near the dock and talk about our business and make big decisions,” Taylor said. “Then one day, we looked around here and thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could own this place?’”

Once they won the bid for the business, the Taylors decided to go with the name Pier 54.

“In the book Vision 54, golf coaches say that the perfect score in golf is a 54,” Taylor said.

“I know I will never hit a 54 in golf, but hopefully I can hit one with this restaurant.”

This was the fourth time Taylor made an offer to take over the business, and now that he has, he sees big plans for the future.

That is, once word of mouth spreads around that the one little restaurant on the shore is back again, more organized and finally with one proud personality.


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