Sep 28 • 43M

Arizona Equals Jesse & Gabe

The Brick Road Coffee co-founders join the Arizona Equals Conversation for an interview about how they are building queer community in the East Valley

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Equality Arizona
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.

This week on the podcast, we’re excited to feature an interview with Jesse Shank and Gabe Hagen, co-owners of Brick Road Coffee. We’ve pretty much fallen in love with the coffee shop and the incredible community forming around it, so it was a real joy to have Gabe and Jesse on the podcast. [Note: this episode is best enjoyed on headphones, while drinking coffee at a certain coffee shop in Tempe.]

Links & Shownotes

Full Transcript

00;00;01;01 - 00;00;28;17

Jeanne

From Equality Arizona, I'm Jeanne Woodbury. On today's episode of The Arizona Equals Conversation, I talked with Jesse and Gabe, co-owners of Brick Road Coffee. Over the past year, Brick Road has become something of a destination and a beloved community hub for LGBTQ+ people living in the East Valley. Located on Rural Road, just south of the 60, the coffee shop is nestled into the heart of the city of Tempe.

00;00;29;20 - 00;00;55;18

Jeanne

My first experience at Brick Road was on the recommendation of a previous guest on the podcast, the author Lee Call, who held the launch event for their most recent novel, The Angel Room, at the Coffee Shop. If you'd like to listen to that conversation, you can visit our archive at EqualityArizona.org/stories, or you can follow the show in Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts.

00;00;56;20 - 00;01;17;00

Jeanne

Today's episode features the first joint interview I've done for the show, and I was a little intimidated, but really excited. Now, I have to clarify that because this is a podcast and you only have our voices, it's not going to be immediately clear who's who. So I had Gabe and Jesse record a little intro just to establish their voices.

00;01;18;05 - 00;01;24;12

Jesse

I'm Jesse Shank, and I'm the older one.

[All laughing]

00;01;24;12 - 00;01;26;15

Gabe

Gabe Hagen, the younger one.

[All laughing]

00;01;27;19 - 00;01;54;15

Jeanne

Perfect. All right. Thank you. Now, before I get the full interview started, I want to tease a couple of events we have coming up at Brick Road in the month of October, on October 9th and October 17th. One of those is a book club. Now, we don't have any information online yet, but if you visit EqualityArizona.org/events soon, you'll be able to find out more and to register. And that out of the way,

00;01;54;28 - 00;02;11;16

Jeanne

Let's get into the interview. Thanks for listening!

00;02;16;13 - 00;02;32;00

Jeanne

I really wanted to get a chance to talk about how Brick Road came to be, and I think on some level that has to start with how you two me each other. And so maybe we can start by talking a little bit about your history.

00;02;33;18 - 00;03;00;12

Jesse

Well, I'll keep it to: We met in San Diego. And you're right. There's a lot of elements of our past that kind of lead to Brick Road as individuals and as a couple. And so I, at the time when we met, was a bartender and a bar manager for a small business in San Diego. They owned a couple of nightclubs, and I'd worked for them for 11 years at the time, I believe.

00;03;00;12 - 00;03;22;25

Jesse

So, you know, I kind of had a background in an LGBTQ queer small business community space in San Diego. And yes, I was lucky enough to meet Gabe at the club. I don't know if Gabe was 21 yet, but I did meet him.

00;03;22;25 - 00;03;25;25

Gabe

For legal reasons, I'll say yes.

00;03;25;25 - 00;03;42;12

Jesse

And he was a bank teller at the bank that that business patronized. So I would see him there. I would see him around town. And he eventually agreed to go on a date with me.

00;03;42;13 - 00;03;46;16

Jeanne

That's really nice. Had you been in San Diego for your whole life up to that point?

00;03;46;16 - 00;04;09;21

Jesse

I went to, I moved to San Diego in 1994 to go to college at UCSD, and I moved to Hillcrest, which was the gayborhood, yeah in about '98 and promptly put my biology and animal behavior degree to use bartending at a gay bar, and did that for a long time.

00;04;10;02 - 00;04;13;11

Jeanne

There's some similarities, just tracking behavior.

Jesse

Sure. Yeah.

00;04;13;24 - 00;04;16;18

Jesse

A lot of a lot of animal behavior out there.

00;04;17;11 - 00;04;23;12

Gabe

And I moved to San Diego in 2007, and that's when we met, pretty quickly after I moved.

00;04;23;12 - 00;04;32;26

Jesse

So, yeah, Gabe was brave and moved to San Diego by himself and and got a roommate on Craigslist before they were Craigslist murders.

00;04;32;26 - 00;04;37;00

Gabe

Before the Dateline specials about Craigslist, I found a roommate on Craigslist and moved in with them.

00;04;37;02 - 00;04;48;11

Jeanne

I think a lot of people have found pretty great things on Craigslist. I mean, they've changed it now without the personals section and everything. But, what took you to San Diego at that point? I mean, that's a pretty big move to make.

00;04;48;17 - 00;05;08;00

Gabe

Yeah, I grew up in Iowa, so, you know, really accepting and loving Iowa. [Laughs.] So I turned 18 and I flew across the country. So I just wanted to go somewhere, somewhere different. Originally I was thinking San Francisco, but my best friend moved to San Diego to go to school, so I decided to just follow him and go that way.

00;05;08;00 - 00;05;10;16

Jeanne

Oh, so you knew someone in San Diego already?

00;05;10;17 - 00;05;24;20

Gabe

I knew one person, yeah. So we were, we still are friends, but like, we lived different lifestyles. I found the gayborhood and—

Jeanne

Yeah.

Gabe

— yeah, that was, that was like, oh, there's a world of people like me. That's amazing.

00;05;24;21 - 00;05;39;03

Jeanne

Yeah. I feel like moving to Arizona from San Diego, where there's, it seems like a community you were pretty embedded in over a long period of time, isn't necessarily an intuitive choice that that everyone would make.

00;05;39;19 - 00;06;04;17

Jesse

Sure it took some convincing and it took the Great Recession honestly to kind of jar me out of my, I'll call it a rut because I you know, I was a bartender for probably way too long after college before, you know, going into a more traditional career. But you know it, Gabe made good arguments. He was a good motivation, a good reason to make some changes.

00;06;05;20 - 00;06;31;17

Jesse

And like I said, the Great Recession kind of changed the financial landscape for me. And we were looking to find a home, which San Diego didn't present many options for homeownership at the time. My parents were living in Arizona at that time, so we came to visit and found some cheap real estate and kind of said, you know, let's just do it.

00;06;31;29 - 00;06;58;04

Jesse

I'll say, you know, we missed San Diego for a while. And that shift from a very gay neighborhood, very queer space, you know, where rainbow flags on every window, and, you know, you did, you walked down the street holding hands at three in the morning. It didn't matter, right. You weren't, you weren't afraid there. And Arizona was a big change in that respect.

00;06;58;23 - 00;07;01;05

Jesse

We did move to Laveen, to be fair, right after that.

00;07;01;07 - 00;07;01;27

Jeanne

Oh, yeah.

00;07;02;02 - 00;07;08;12

Jesse

So probably as different as you can get within the valley from San Diego.

00;07;08;19 - 00;07;13;15

Jeanne

That's a big change. What were your arguments, your pro-Arizona arguments?

00;07;14;01 - 00;07;38;16

Gabe

Real estate. And at the time, you know, I had this idealized version of like being closer to family again, because his family just moved out here from the Bay Area. And it was that, you know, white picket fence, the let's get some dogs and let's get a house and let's see — that idealized version of what I thought I wanted. And then we moved to Arizona and it was great.

00;07;38;16 - 00;07;47;25

Gabe

We're, we still miss San Diego, but it definitely came with a lot of unintended consequences, I guess.

00;07;47;25 - 00;08;23;20

Jesse

I suspect that to some extent Gabe also didn't mind removing me from the bar scene, the bar and club scene in San Diego that I was a little bit too embedded in for too long. And it's not the healthiest of, of scenes all the time. And it's one of the, one of the things that kind of led to Brick Road being what it is, is finding a way to have that type of space and that type of community that doesn't have alcohol component or a partying component and was a little bit more inclusive, so.

00;08;23;20 - 00;08;42;11

Jeanne

I see a lot of people on the Internet talk about that kind of idea of like, where's the space for me to go where I don't have to worry about people drinking or having to buy a drink. So I think maybe it's a good time to talk about how Brick Road came to be. You moved to Laveen initially.

00;08;43;01 - 00;08;47;20

Jeanne

How long did you stay in Laveen? Are you still in Laveen?

Jesse

No.

Jeanne

Oh, okay.

00;08;47;20 - 00;09;12;09

Jesse

Well, we were there long enough. You know, Laveen was kind of a midway point between the two jobs that we found in Arizona to facilitate the move. And then we both ended up working in Tempe for financial institutions, and it made sense to move to Tempe for that reason if none other, right. And then we kind of fell in love with Tempe pretty quickly, and

00;09;13;10 - 00;09;27;07

Gabe

But we noticed that Tempe was lacking. It didn't have a gay bar and it doesn't have a lot of those queer spaces. The East Valley in general was pretty dry in queer spaces.

00;09;27;07 - 00;09;28;10

Jeanne

And it always has been.

00;09;28;10 - 00;09;47;24

Gabe

Yeah. And so that's one thing that really frustrated me is like, Tempe is such an inclusive city to not have those spaces. So when we originally opened Brick Road, I don't know if we intended to be… We definitely didn't intend to be as queer of a space as it is now. And a lot of it was out of fear.

00;09;48;18 - 00;10;15;16

Gabe

Just not not sure if leaning into that queer identity would be beneficial to business. So we did it in subtle ways to stay true to ourselves. And then once we opened our doors, we found out that the community really needed that. The community was reminding us that, yes, we have a desert out here in the East Valley. And so we just kept leaning in more and more and more and letting the space kind of evolve into what it's become, which has been really fun,

00;10;15;16 - 00;10;44;14

Jesse

I think, you know, it may be important to note that coming from the gayborhood in San Diego to Arizona, we became homebodies pretty quickly and didn't venture out. And, you know, we're aware that there's a scene in downtown Phoenix, the central Phoenix area, but we we kind of removed ourselves from all of that and just focused on career. And that was probably to our detriment as well.

00;10;44;14 - 00;11;10;05

Jesse

Right, and one of the real impetus — I'm not even going to be able to say it, but impetus for opening Brick Road was escaping some of the pressures of that career. So, so it is that when we did make the move we weren't sure how far we could go and really how brave we wanted to be and and what was out there, really, what was the community like?

00;11;10;05 - 00;11;12;10

Jesse

Because we'd removed ourselves from it for a bit.

00;11;12;19 - 00;11;21;00

Jeanne

How fast was that evolution then? From the sort of uncertain kind of hedging your bets start to how things are now?

00;11;21;12 - 00;11;50;19

Gabe

Pretty quick.

Jesse

Yeah very quick. We're risk averse in business and, you know, and in life in general to the point that when we opened the cafe, we did it without employees for a month. You know, we stepped in so that we weren't risking a lot of the bucket that we had right away. And in the same way we hinted at things and we put little Easter eggs around and we did things that we thought were really important, like set up the lending library.

00;11;51;15 - 00;12;09;22

Jesse

But it was very, very rapidly the community that the people that were coming in made it clear that this is going to be good, this is going to be you know, something that they wanted. And, you know, we just kind of threw it in at that point. We're going for it.

00;12;09;28 - 00;12;28;10

Gabe

I think pretty quickly we started getting some regulars that were driving from like Queen Creek on like, two or three times a week to come use our space. And they were part of our community. And it's just, we were like, wow, this is this is how much it's needed. And so then we just kept leaning in more. We kept doing more things.

00;12;28;10 - 00;12;45;17

Gabe

And then Pride Month rolled around and the flags went up and they just haven't come down. And I don't know if they ever will.

Jeanne

Nice.

Jesse

Cleaning.

Gabe

Yeah, I think well, I think one of the biggest things that helped too was that rainbow Christmas tree. We did lean in for Christmas, and we bought a Christmas tree that was Rainbow.

00;12;46;05 - 00;12;57;15

Gabe

And that like, I think was the first real flag that we planted of like, this is a queer space. This is a visual identity, it was a Queer-mas tree. We collected gifts for one-n-ten.

00;12;57;27 - 00;12;58;22

Jeanne

Oh, that's wonderful.

00;12;58;22 - 00;12;59;16

Gabe

And it was just.

00;12;59;24 - 00;13;13;10

Jesse

You could see people's eyes light up when they when they walked in the door and there was this rainbow Christmas tree in like direct line of sight, you know? And the joy is just like, yeah, we got to keep going with this stuff, so.

00;13;13;10 - 00;13;41;02

Jeanne

I think it's kind of the nature of the metro area that, you know, even knowing like, yeah, I could drive to Melrose from Tempe or from Chandler, it's not something that you're gonna do that often, or it's not a natural choice to make necessarily. And so being able to just walk into a coffee shop in Tempe as opposed to having to make like a dedicated, you know, potentially half hour, 45 minute drive, it's a big deal.

00;13;41;02 - 00;14;06;18

Jeanne

And when I spoke to Lee Call, the author, they were telling me that it was just kind of an accidental discovery for them after going to Jerry's Artarama and just finding out, oh, wait, this is, this is super gay. And then another big moment for them was seeing that lending library. It sounds like that was kind of one of the earliest things you really leaned into.

00;14;06;19 - 00;14;28;04

Gabe

That was important for me from day one. I wanted to have that. Growing up in Iowa, it was a very small town. Our bookstore was Barnes & Noble. It wasn't like we had an independent bookstore. And I mean, I grew up my graduating class was 126 people. So like super small town, everybody knew everybody; you knew whose parents were whose.

00;14;28;04 - 00;14;50;03

Gabe

And I didn't always know who was related to somebody in my class. So like going to Barnes & Noble, they had a gay and lesbian section. And I remember I was trying to buy the book Middlesex and like, just because somebody had told me that that was a little bit queer and I was like, what? So like I was trying to see myself in a book and I was terrified to stand in front of that section because I felt like that was outing myself.

00;14;50;14 - 00;14;59;05

Gabe

Buying the book, I'd have to go up to somebody and actually give them the book and pay for it and didn't know if I would know them or if they would know me in some way or know my family in some way.

00;14;59;06 - 00;15;01;09

Jeanne

That's a good point, because it's such a small town.

00;15;01;09 - 00;15;19;23

Gabe

Such a small town. So like all of those little, like micro traumas of like outing yourself was just so detrimental. So I wanted to create a bookshelf that was just queer representation in some form, either a queer author, queer story and just have it so people can walk up to it, look at it, grab a book, put it in your bag and walk away.

00;15;20;11 - 00;15;33;25

Gabe

Like there's no check out process. There's no nothing. It's just, here's a space where you can go if you don't. It's a coffee shop like, so kind of remove some of those boundaries or barriers as my goal.

00;15;34;18 - 00;16;05;22

Jesse

I think that, you know, when we first started talking about opening a coffee shop, we were looking at, you know, different companies that already existed, franchises; we were talking about different ways to do it. But we did have things that we wanted our coffee shop to have, right, nd things that we wanted to do. And we we, we wanted to support charities that were important to us and social causes and have things like the lending library.

00;16;05;22 - 00;16;31;04

Jesse

And that's one of the things that really led us away from the franchise idea, which may have been a little bit less risky, would have cost a lot more money up front to get started. But, you know, in general, it's a proven concept, but would we have the control to be able to do those things? And we talked to some of those companies and we really wouldn't, you know, we had to get permission —

Gabe

— to donate.

00;16;31;04 - 00;16;41;11

Jesse

Yeah. To engage with other organizations in the community and things like that. And so, you know, it was kind of clear like we, we've got to go independent.

00;16;41;11 - 00;16;57;09

Gabe

Yeah, we did some research on a couple of them that we were really interested in. And you start looking at who owns the company, that owns the company, that owns the company, and you start seeing all these like Mar-A-Lago pictures like that and you're like — probably won't get the approval. So maybe not the best people to be in business with.

00;16;57;10 - 00;17;26;06

Jeanne

Well, and they're protecting their brand on some level. Right. And now you've established your own brand, which means you can make whatever decisions you want.

Gabe

Yep.

Jeanne

You were mentioning those micro traumas; in like a more generic business sense, people talk about friction and often the way to create like a niche in the market is to find a way to remove friction for people in some kind of experience that they want, but for some reason aren't actually engaging in.

00;17;26;06 - 00;17;51;05

Jeanne

And I think that that's something that's really happening in terms of everything you're talking about: being in the East Valley, creating the space where people don't have to out themselves in an uncomfortable way or extend their limits too much. I think that anyone starting a business, and especially something as risky as any kind of brick and mortar can be, especially I think, there's a million coffee shops right, all around.

00;17;52;01 - 00;17;55;21

Jeanne

What gave you the confidence to actually jump into that?

00;17;55;21 - 00;18;24;28

Jesse

You know, I think, you know, again, there were, there were certain things we wanted to accomplish with this, with the space ahead of time before we decided to go in, all in queer. And I think we were confident that those things would encourage community members to patronize us. So I, I didn't mention earlier, but it was very important to us to provide a living wage to our baristas, and pay good money.

00;18;24;28 - 00;18;44;23

Jesse

And, you know, that's another thing you can't necessarily control with the franchise, you know, but you know, yeah, we just assumed that if we supported the community and supported our employees, that we would get enough traction to survive, right.

00;18;44;29 - 00;19;14;15

Gabe

And there's definitely a lot of people that want to support people that do good business. And that's one area where we, we have that privilege. Like we both had corporate careers. I was able to step away from mine entirely to focus on Brick Road and that investment of my time, without requiring any type of compensation from the business, allowed us to enter paying our employees above minimum wage plus tips.

00;19;14;16 - 00;19;34;10

Gabe

We're not taking advantage of all the legislative loopholes that they give you when it comes to tipped employees where you can pay them less money and, you know, just really leaning into those values that allowed me to find better talent, allowed me to find talent that was really going to connect with our mission and help show that because that was the scariest part.

00;19;34;10 - 00;19;59;03

Gabe

When I started, it was just the two of us. There was no employees. So living out the values and the mission was super easy because we're setting it up and it's the only people that people engage with are going to be Jesse or myself. Once you add employees into that, now you're creating a safe space that's relying on other people to nurture our own community, to take care of our community.

00;19;59;03 - 00;20;21;11

Gabe

And so that's where I think treating the employees with a certain level of respect. Being transparent with them, they know where we're at as far as financials. They know how well the business is doing. They know why we're making certain decisions, because I don't hide that, because they deserve to know that information and it gives them more of a reason to buy into the business.

00;20;22;00 - 00;20;26;04

Gabe

And that just, that creates an ecosystem that really does support our community so much.

00;20;27;12 - 00;20;48;15

Jeanne

I think something I really wanted to learn coming into this conversation is how you approach building community. Because you're a space that's not just a community space, it's a space that has an actual community that's grown around it. And it seems like what you're saying is that that began at a very small and intentional level with your staff.

00;20;49;27 - 00;21;10;12

Jeanne

What else have you done to really be intentional about that? You mentioned that a lot of it was just listening to what people wanted and what people would respond to. But I've seen in general that it's actually really difficult to nurture that kind of community without being really intentional about it.

00;21;10;25 - 00;21;37;00

Gabe

I would agree it's been one of our — it's becoming one of our primary things that we have to spend our time focusing on, is nurturing that community. We started going into it very well-aware of the privileges that we carried, we're two cisgendered white men, like we, we just have to acknowledge that and realize where we're at, so we can only speak to our experiences.

00;21;37;00 - 00;21;58;17

Gabe

So we intentionally went in trying to seek out people that have different life experiences, that have different viewpoints, and ask, what do you, what does that community need? Because the one thing we were privileged to be able to have is a space that we could offer up if they knew something that their community needed, whether it be access to HIV testing or something like that.

00;21;58;17 - 00;22;30;28

Gabe

We had a space that we could try to go out and make that available. One thing that, one example is somebody mentioned that the trans community is further impacted by the stigma of access to menstrual products or the hygiene products. And so we made it part of our thing where now we have access to pads and tampons that are just free, because if you forget one, it's hard enough to ask if you're a cisgender individual, let alone part of the trans community.

00;22;30;28 - 00;22;45;21

Gabe

So that type of listening and being able to take our space to remove those barriers or set up some form of a group get together, or allowing people to use our space in a certain way.

00;22;46;07 - 00;23;01;27

Jesse

A lot of it is just staying out of the way and letting community do what community wants to do. And part of that is saying yes a lot, right. If somebody is saying, hey, can we do this here, can we have some space, can we have some time? You know, yes. I don't, I don't know how I'm going to do that, but yes, we'll do it.

00;23;01;27 - 00;23;30;00

Jesse

I don't know what will happen, but the owners of one of my favorite coffee shops in San Diego said to me a long time ago, if you're not building community, you don't have a coffee shop. Right, and I took that to heart. But what does that mean? How do you intentionally build community? And I think to some extent we got lucky that there was a real need for this space and the community was there, ready to use it.

00;23;31;04 - 00;24;07;01

Jesse

We are next to a nonprofit that hosts recovery meetings, which is a ready made community that has a lot of intersection to the queer community. So to some extent, there was already a community there, next door, ready to use the space and encourage others. Because when you come in as a customer for the first time, even if you're alone, you're going to see those interactions going on around you and that people are open to talk to strangers and you know that there's this kind of family festive atmosphere there and partake in it.

00;24;07;15 - 00;24;16;29

Jesse

So having that starter point, that sourdough starter community there, was a great benefit and I'm very grateful for that community.

00;24;17;24 - 00;24;47;24

Gabe

And I'm also just grateful for the other, the other people that have already formed so much community that allowed us to tap into their networks, like partners like one-n-ten, partners like GLSEN, partners like South West Center for HIV and AIDS, all of them, nd even Equality Arizona. I mean, there's another one! Like all these people that we just, they have their expertise, they know what they're doing, and they provide fantastic resources for different parts of our community.

00;24;48;09 - 00;25;03;09

Gabe

We just want to be a central hub. Like we look at ourselves as — I want to be that kind of info-dump of like where people can go to get access to a myriad of things. Like, I'm not going to be the expert, but I'm going to hopefully know somebody that knows somebody. That's my goal, so.

00;25;04;05 - 00;25;28;25

Jeanne

The last time I went to your coffee shop, I ended up sitting next to Mayor Corey Woods for a couple hours. Something I love about Tempe is, just by geographic happenstance it's completely landlocked, and a lot of things are really centralized in a way that isn't true for other cities. There's the Tempe Public Library. There aren't branches, there's just one library, and it's right down the street from you.

00;25;29;09 - 00;25;41;06

Jeanne

I think you mentioned there's a book club that you do in partnership with the Tempe Library. But in general, what has your experience been integrating into some of the existing Tempe institutions?

00;25;42;09 - 00;26;15;20

Jesse

Well, I'll just say the city of Tempe has been amazing to work with from the inception of the business to today. So, you know, as someone trying to start a business in the city of Tempe, all of their departments have, they're very responsive and helpful and they want to see us succeed. As far as the leadership, like the city council, the charities, the large businesses, the business community in Tempe, all of them.

00;26;15;20 - 00;26;23;07

Jesse

I just I don't, I don't know what to say about it. Gabe do you have anybody you want to shout out to, or?

00;26;23;17 - 00;27;02;28

Gabe

There's so many I mean, we've done — the city has just embraced us so quickly, whether that be the city officials, the actual city of Tempe, or just groups like Tempe Tourism is an example. They came in early on and did a like TikTok of us. And that got us so much traction within Tempe and it's so many ways in which the city has just helped us along the way, helped us get off off the ground, get out, get on our feet, start running, has been really, really instrumental in getting us to where we're at.

00;27;02;28 - 00;27;22;02

Gabe

But I will say, like there's other businesses that I know of that like are starting out and they aren't finding that same connection. And what I find the difference is, is I'm not quiet. So like, I'm sitting here like, oh, Tempe Tourism, I'm DMing them like, hey, we're a new coffee shop, you have a coffee shop page on your website.

00;27;22;02 - 00;27;40;07

Gabe

Can we be on it? Like I'm not afraid to ask because worse the can do is say no. And it's that type of "put yourself out there" that I think has really helped us take off and mixed with a little bit, I mean, I have a corporate career, so I'm used to corporate politics. I know how to play the corporate games.

00;27;40;17 - 00;28;04;03

Gabe

So I think being able to combine a new business, a small business, with some of the infrastructure that I'm used to at a corporation, has allowed me to be able to put together presentations that are like, Hey, this is why you should care about us. And that gets us more traction that people take us a little bit more seriously when we, you know, just kind of show them that we aren't just a fly by night coffee shop.

00;28;04;16 - 00;28;26;18

Jesse

Yeah, I agree. I think the network is there and the support is there. And yes, you have to ask for the help. Tempe Chamber has been great. The Greater Equality Chamber has been amazing. We've gotten so many of our business partners from chamber connections, you know, accountants and lawyers and people that you need when you're in business.

00;28;27;23 - 00;28;34;27

Jesse

And yeah, they all, everybody's rooting for you if you just make the connection, if just reach out and say hello.

00;28;35;10 - 00;28;56;02

Gabe

And you just have to tell your story. That's one thing that we found very quickly was solidifying what our story was: how did Brick Road come to be? What do we, what's our mission? What's our purpose? And once we found that sweet spot of the queer community needing that space, like, it became very easy to tell our story because we so passionately believe in what we're doing.

00;28;57;09 - 00;29;16;28

Gabe

It's easy to kind of go out and say, This is why you should care about us and this is why you should care about the issues that matter to our community. And hey, did you ever think about how this impacts our community? And even though I'm not necessarily doing a ton of stuff, I've gotten other businesses to implement some things that make it a little bit easier for a community outside of brick road's walls.

00;29;16;28 - 00;29;41;15

Gabe

And so that's a mission that I've been trying to do, partnering with the Tempe Chamber, trying to get them more well integrated with the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber, which is an affinity chamber that definitely champions our community, and then also partnering them with One Community Arizona, with Angela Hughey's organization. And just like getting those partnerships is a big thing on my bucket list to do.

00;29;41;15 - 00;30;09;04

Gabe

And that includes the Tempe Chamber, that includes the city of Tempe, the government officials. So beyond just selling coffee, I'm trying to really have the communities that we're a part of become leaders in the queer community. And in showing that that all doors are open to us, I really want that more than anything. Like I want, I want, I want there to be a strong community that stands behind us now more than ever.

00;30;09;04 - 00;30;11;20

Gabe

Like I feel like that's needed.

00;30;11;20 - 00;30;38;11

Jeanne

You say "now more than ever." I think you were saying it's just a lot of it's about saying yes when you're building community. But there are some really concerning things happening around the country right now at community spaces that host LGBT events. Even if it's something like a book club, sometimes that's something that gets targeted. Are there difficult decisions you've had to make?

00;30;38;11 - 00;30;41;07

Jeanne

Are there things you've had to say no to?

00;30;41;07 - 00;31;11;28

Jesse

I think we've so far have said yes with some trepidation in some instances and taking some additional steps to make sure that we're as safe as we can be. So I don't know that we've been asked to host anything that was so controversial or concerning that we've said no, but it is something we're aware of. I mean, you do have to think about those things.

00;31;12;07 - 00;31;34;17

Jesse

Who's going to show up? What kind of chatter is out there? Who's talking about us? For sure. I think that, you know, we're transparent with our employees. If we, if we have a concern and, you know, maybe we lose a little sleep. Occasionally. But yeah, no, nothing stopping us yet.

00;31;34;29 - 00;31;35;14

Jeanne

That's great.

00;31;35;24 - 00;32;02;02

Gabe

I think that's the biggest thing is we've we had one instance in Pride Month when a lot of things were being targeted and luckily the event went off without hesitation. But it was a lot on like us actually dealing with that situation and making sure everything went off well and having to deal with the whole situation that like the next month when that same event came around, it was very like, do we still do this?

00;32;02;18 - 00;32;27;08

Gabe

Do we still want to be targets on Telegram or wherever the right wing chatter is at the moment? And so we, that was the hardest one was to continue with that second month, and we did it. There were no issues. And it reminded me that, yes. That's letting them win. If we shut that down, if we stop doing drag story hours or stop doing different events because they targeted us and they won.

00;32;27;28 - 00;32;53;08

Gabe

And so it's some sleepless nights for sure, but it's just forcing us to kind of think of different ways to approach the event, make sure that there's the right partners involved. Free Mom Hugs has been fantastic, like it's just, the community rallies to help support to make sure that we can create these spaces.

00;32;53;08 - 00;33;07;02

Jeanne

I also just wanted to ask about some of the things that you have said yes to. You've got a lot of different programing happening at Brick Road and I was hoping just for the podcast listeners, that maybe you could share some of the stuff you have coming up.

00;33;08;01 - 00;33;39;06

Jesse

Well, we have several recurring events that pretty much happen every month. The biggest and most consistent one is Queerizona or Queer in Arizona, which is a kind of a social nonprofit that was started by two individuals. I think one was in Queen Creek and one was in Surprise or Peoria or something. And really their mission was to make sure that there were more social events for queer people happening outside of central Phoenix.

00;33;39;21 - 00;34;00;20

Jesse

And we were very lucky to connect with them early on in their journey. It was early on in our journey and so we have a Wednesday, a weekly Wednesday queer meet up that is usually 20 to 30 people strong. It kind of takes over. Some of the ASU students give us the stink eye when they're trying to get their finals done.

00;34;00;20 - 00;34;23;29

Jesse

But that's a great one, and one of my favorites always different people, but, you know, some familiar faces at the same time. Tempe Library reached out to us wanting to do a LGBTQ BIPOC book club and the deputy director — do I have the title right?

00;34;24;03 - 00;34;25;01

Gabe

I think so, yeah.

00;34;25;14 - 00;34;37;06

Jesse

Jessica Jupitus — just so amazing at running a book club. I've, I don't know if I've ever heard of a book club that has the attendance that ours does, but that happens once a month.

00;34;37;12 - 00;34;39;21

Gabe

The second Tuesday of every month.

00;34;40;01 - 00;34;43;27

Jeanne

Jessica is wonderful. I've gotten to meet with her a little bit.

00;34;44;06 - 00;34;48;15

Jesse

Yeah, a breath of fresh air. I mean, really. Yeah. I'm so glad they're here.

00;34;48;16 - 00;35;01;05

Gabe

I mean, our book club last night, we had 21 people, and most, if not all, I think at some point participated. It was just a fantastic discussion and it was so much fun. So those are really fun events to join.

00;35;01;08 - 00;35;33;21

Jesse

For sure. And so a quick shout out to Changing Hands in Tempe, which is, you know, a great business. You know, they host a lot of author events and book launches and we've had the pleasure of going to a couple of those. And we're also lucky to have a good writing community building in Brick Road that, you know, writers that meet regularly and you know, there's a lot of really powerful queer authors that are local to Tempe, which is really cool.

00;35;33;21 - 00;35;54;26

Gabe

There's a huge, a huge queer — I mean. Well, Lee Call was in here. So I mean, there's an incredible queer writing community here in Arizona that we had no idea existed. But we've kind of tapped into that network between the authors that write there, the events we've gone to at Changing Hands. Changing hands has even donated several times to that lending library just to keep it stocked and full.

00;35;54;26 - 00;36;00;07

Gabe

And so it's such a beautiful, like ecosystem around books and literature.

00;36;00;14 - 00;36;25;17

Jesse

And so the book club has kind of spawned into, you know, occasionally we'll do a Behind the Curtains local author spotlight. We've had a couple of book launches actually at Brick Road, David Boyles and Lee Call so far and then other events: Dungeons & Dragons. So we have four groups going right now on —

00;36;26;05 - 00;36;27;01

Gabe

Various days.

00;36;27;06 - 00;36;32;24

Jesse

Thursdays, Tuesdays there's a waitlist. Trying to get some more dungeon masters.

00;36;33;16 - 00;36;39;06

Jeanne

Wow! Do either of you play we to play?

Gabe

We do.

Jesse

We both play.

Jeanne

Oh, that's great.

00;36;39;06 - 00;36;44;29

Gabe

Selfishly, a lot of these events that we set up are just things that we want to do, so.

00;36;45;20 - 00;37;00;27

Jesse

But you know, a lot of, a lot of gaymers out there G-A-Y-M-E-R-S, right, it's another great local nonprofit is the Phoenix Gaymers. And so we hope to see them sometimes we've got some chess groups coming.

00;37;02;00 - 00;37;09;29

Gabe

And then we try to do once a month drag story hour. So actually the 24th, Saturday the 24th. Do you remember the time?

00;37;10;09 - 00;37;10;28

Jesse

I don't have it yet.

00;37;11;01 - 00;37;30;23

Gabe

I don't have the time yet, but I think it's in the morning. We're doing another drag story hour event, so we try to do that once a month where we'll have like either a kids or a young adult drag story hour. Sometimes we make some trivia with it. We just want to create those events for the community. And then in October.

00;37;31;02 - 00;37;32;07

Jesse

Yeah we can tease.

00;37;32;07 - 00;37;44;25

Gabe

And then in October, we are currently planning I think for the 29th a potential trunk-or-treat event, trying to create an inclusive, safe space.

Jesse

We've got some special partners.

00;37;44;26 - 00;37;47;11

Jeanne

That's a good tease.

00;37;47;11 - 00;37;54;19

Jesse

Also, at the end of October, we plan on hosting a lot of NaNoWriMo events again with the writing community.

00;37;54;19 - 00;37;55;04

Jeanne

Oh, yeah.

00;37;55;20 - 00;38;16;18

Jesse

National Novel Writing Month. So end of October, going into the first day of November, we plant to have kind of a a launch party, if you would, you know, or get started on your novel. Not really a party, but sit down and write, get to work kind of thing. What else. I think we have we have some really cool partnerships with —

00;38;16;18 - 00;38;20;11

Jesse

Gabe, you mentioned Southwest Center for HIV and AIDS and.

00;38;20;16 - 00;38;21;01

Gabe

Spectrum.

00;38;21;01 - 00;38;22;00

Jesse

Spectrum Medical.

00;38;22;21 - 00;38;42;14

Gabe

Both of them come and do pretty regular onsite HIV testing for free, just getting people access to that type of testing. We're also working with them to try to build out some more spaces, to do additional access. But that's still in development because there's, you know, medical, there's requirements. So a lot.

00;38;42;14 - 00;38;43;07

Jeanne

There's a lot of extra steps there.

00;38;43;20 - 00;38;52;01

Gabe

Like we have to make sure we have the right space. But right now we can do the testing and we can get connected to those resources. So we try to have that on a pretty regular basis.

00;38;53;26 - 00;39;05;06

Jeanne

I know that Southwest Center has been really involved in some of the MPV response work. Is that something that there's been any demand for around your location?

00;39;05;06 - 00;39;26;06

Gabe

Not yet. I talked with them last time they were there and they were just getting the ability to host at their site to do that. So I know, I've been, I've been meaning to connect with them again to see about doing an annex out on the east valley. So, yeah, something I've been mindful of trying to create another access point.

00;39;26;13 - 00;39;26;25

Jesse

Yeah. Yeah.

00;39;26;27 - 00;39;55;22

Jesse

So we're, we're always trying to gather resources and information and keep them. You know, we have, we have the traditional community board kind of place where you can put your violin lessons or tutoring or whatever. But most of the stuff back there is, is really resource driven, you know, all sorts of things from, you know, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, sexual health, that sort of thing, so.

00;39;55;22 - 00;40;13;07

Gabe

Yeah, the events we, we were doing a lot more during the summer. We had like a movie night, and we'll plan to bring some of those back over the summer. With ASU back in session our nights get filled back up with students.

Jeanne

Oh, right

Gabe

We dial some of those events back or at least pause them until breaks and stuff like that.

00;40;13;07 - 00;40;32;18

Jesse

We are still a fairly small space, right? So, we have so many tables. And when Queerizona pops in, and I said, you know, 30 people, most of the tables disappear and, but you know, I think people develop habits. They, they get used to the —

Gabe

The routine.

Jesse

To the routine. Yeah.

00;40;32;18 - 00;40;39;09

Jeanne

I think students are good at learning what the best coffee shop is for them on any given night.

Jesse

Right.

00;40;39;24 - 00;40;46;19

Gabe

Yeah. And that's, that's very important for us to have those spaces for our community to gather and be safe and have fun.

00;40;47;07 - 00;41;00;24

Jesse

So it's a good time to plug on our website there is a form where you can submit an event request or you know, suggest an event. So if there's anybody out there looking for a space to do something, then you can just submit that.

00;41;01;14 - 00;41;04;12

Jeanne

That's great. I'll add a link to that to the show notes.

00;41;04;12 - 00;41;06;27

Jesse

Or you can usually find Gabe or I at the coffee shop.

00;41;07;12 - 00;41;12;04

Gabe

Yeah, or email Brick Road at Gmail. BrickRoadCoffee@gmail.com.

00;41;12;04 - 00;41;34;25

Jeanne

Perfect. Well, when you mentioned the whole community of authors in Tempe, it's not something I had been really familiar with before either. And it seemed like a real moment of discovery for you. You moved initially to Laveen. Now you're in Tempe, I think. Not just at Brick Road, but in your time in Arizona. what are some of the great discoveries that you've made?

00;41;35;21 - 00;42;00;16

Jesse

There's plenty of culture in Arizona. I think we're both big fans of the theater. And, you know, there are a lot of theaters in the Phoenix area and a lot of talent. I don't know, you know, I maybe I'm surprised that the discovery is that I actually love Arizona, I love the Phoenix area. You know, spent a year or two saying when are we going to.

00;42;00;16 - 00;42;09;10

Jesse

Move back to San Diego, but that was a long time ago. And now I really — we might visit, but I have no desire to move anywhere.

00;42;09;25 - 00;42;36;16

Gabe

I think I just love all of the outdoor spaces that we have here and like what we're able to do, whether it be Tempe Town, Lake, Papago Park, Kiwanis, there's just always something to do and see. And there seems to be a pretty good mix of events that are put on that provide different access to culture and that's always really fun to see and really exciting to participate in, so.

00;42;36;16 - 00;42;42;01

Jeanne

That's great. Well, thanks for talking with me today for the podcast.

00;42;42;22 - 00;42;43;07

Gabe

Thank you.

00;42;44;21 - 00;43;05;01

Jeanne

Thanks again to Jesse and Gabe for being my guests on the podcast this week. I'm sure I'll see them again soon at Brick Road. And if I'm ever in Tempe, well, that's where you'll find me. All right. I had to make at least one Wizard of Oz reference. If you haven't given up listening yet, maybe consider leaving a rating or a review on Apple Podcasts.

00;43;05;05 - 00;43;21;04

Jeanne

It really helps out the show. And if you'd like to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast, just visit EqualityArizona.org/Stories to sign up. Thanks for listening and don't forget to tune in again next week.