Local coffee entrepreneur pours his energy into expansion

 

Coffee entrepreneur Steve Schmidt with just a few of the tasty treats he offers--with an even wider selection on the way. Wrangler News photo by Alex J. Walker
Coffee entrepreneur Steve Schmidt with just a few of the tasty treats he offers–with an even wider selection on the way. Wrangler News photo by Alex J. Walker

By Diana Whittle

Loyal patrons of Steve’s Espresso in Tempe know they can count on excellent, personalized service and a great cup of java, made by the epicurian French press method.

Of course, Steve’s also offers all kinds of made-to-order, blended coffee drinks—lattes, espressos, cappuccinos—along with a wide selection of loose-leaf teas, homemade pastries and cookies.

It’s been that way since 2004, when Steve Schmidt opened his one-of-a-kind coffee shop, on the southeast corner of Baseline and McClintock in a strip mall, across the street from the Chapman car dealership.

While in a competitive market niche, with more chain coffee stores opening in the East Valley all the time, Schmidt has managed to retain his customers and has developed a strong base of regulars.

So, he decided he wanted to expand his menu and beverage offerings to become a neighborhood bistro. And, with the support of patrons, he felt it was time to move up to the next level of service.

In fact, some of the new changes to Steve’s Espresso were requested by customers.

“Some of our regulars asked if we were ever going to get a liquor license and I thought why not?” said Schmidt.

“Now on the way home, customers can stop by for a glass of their favorite wine, a beer or one of our hand-crafted cocktails.”

In addition to an expanded beverage list, the new menu includes sandwiches, salads and desserts.

“All the food is prepared on site by our staff with fresh ingredients,” said Schmidt, “and our roasted chicken salad has become very popular.”

Schmidt earned a degree in economics and is a graduate of the renowned Thunderbird School of International Business in Glendale. He previously worked as a business consultant in the healthcare industry.

His education and business acumen serve him well, as he regularly studies his business model to keep it interesting for him and for his customers.

“I like to constantly change things up so that we’re reaching new customers and growing to a new level,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt is a true entrepreneur at heart and enjoys the process of re-inventing his way of doing business and the décor. He made news in 2013 when he decided to discontinue offering wi-fi service. With the change, he also moved out the leather couches and replaced them with wooden tables and chairs.

To him, the new furniture built more community in the shop because “customers actually talk to one another now.”

His friendly wait staff and the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant create a comfortable place for customers of all ages and backgrounds to linger if time allows—but, they also are sensitive to those customers in a hurry, who need to make a purchase and get out the door quickly.

Currently, Steve’s opens at 5:30 a.m. to catch early risers, along with commuters on their way to work, and remains open until 7 p.m. for drinks and a light supper. To call in an order ahead, the number is 480-777-5373.

Steve’s Espresso, 1801 W. Baseline Road, also maintains a page on Facebook.

 

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