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Phoenix coffee introduces employee co-op program

Posted at 1:44 PM, Oct 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-25 13:44:36-04

CLEVELAND — Phoenix Coffee, a popular Cleveland-based coffee company, announced that is transitioning to an employee-owned cooperative.

The company will become the only employee-owned cooperative coffee company in Ohio.

“Employees, baristas, lead shifts, we all are really excited for this opportunity,” said Darius Ward, an employee at the shop in Ohio City for the last year.

The Ohio City staple teamed up with Evergreen— a Cleveland based non-profit dedicated to preserving jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods through collective ownership.

“The coffee retail business is very difficult. The margins are low, you're dealing with high turnover,” co-general manager and coffee director Christopher Feran said. “So if you can find a way to get more investment and more equity from your baristas and your line staff it can be a way to really create some stability in an otherwise unstable industry."

Evergreen acts as the financier of the deal, and with the employees essentially paying back a “loan.”

“We’re still going to be serving the same coffee, giving the same smiles, great customer service,” said Khristen Logan. “But I think it might be a little bit better because the more you put in the greater outcome you get.”

After one year of employment at Phoenix, employees will pay what is equivalent to a membership fee. Roughly $1,000 that comes in the form of a payroll deduction. That deduction is offset by a raise in pay.

“As soon as we were told about it, me personally it meant the world to me,” Ward said. “The opportunity to do more really means a lot.”

Employee ownership is completely optional. Phoenix Coffee will still have part-time and regular full-time employees. But the company said the worker-owner model is designed to give employees more room for growth.

“We definitely reinvented ourselves to be able to stay true to our name,” Logan said.