TEMPE, Ariz. (Nov. 17, 2023) – The Gen-Z and young millennial working-class generations have a legitimate reason to voice their concerns about being financially poorer than their parents. While their predecessors might criticize their work ethic, it's undeniable that this younger generation is actively reshaping our approach to compassion, regardless of political or religious beliefs, like addressing climate issues and challenging divisive government institutions. Given these circumstances, where much feels beyond their control due to outdated and flawed systems promoting struggle or failure, why not ensure they receive a livable wage?
We’ve all heard the rule of thumb that one’s cost of living shouldn’t exceed 30 percent of monthly income. In today’s economic climate, that’s unrealistic and certainly not attainable. According to a recent New York Times article, homeownership is impossible, and renting isn’t an easy alternative, with those searching for apartments facing bidding wars and rising rent costs. Prices in the Phoenix Metro area increased 0.6 percent for the two months ending in October 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. *Source: as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).
While Corporate America has the funds to provide higher wages, many of them won’t unless they see a positive impact on their bottom line, and even then, corporate greed tends to prevent this. And what about small business owners who want to do right by the people taking a chance working for a business that, in all honesty, in today’s economy, may not last past the first year in business?
When Gabe Hagen and Jesse Shank, Co-Owners of Brick Road Coffee in Tempe, opened their doors in October 2021, they knew that to create the safe space and sense of community they longed for, they had to start by cultivating a work environment centered around the health and happiness of their employees. For many, the global pandemic was a time to reflect on how time and energy are spent and what marks an individual will leave on their family and neighbors. This is why Hagen and Shank decided it was time to leave the corporate world and create a legacy born out of the desire to create and foster community.
They accomplished this by ensuring all staff earned a living wage, allowing them to live securely without worry. They hired at $13/hr plus tips, a starting wage well above Arizona's required minimum wage of $10.85/hr for tipped employees. And higher than most locally-owned coffee shops can afford. At the end of 2022, Hagen and Shank again took an opportunity to continue their mission and reinvest in their employees by increasing their starting pay to $14/hr plus tips.
Exactly one year later, they have raised their starting wage to $15.50/hour plus tips. It is more than a 10% cost of living adjustment and is likely life-changing to many young millennial and Gen-Z adults who make up the entire staff at Brick Road Coffee. According to a 2022 report from Lever, 42 percent of Gen-Zers would rather be at a company that gives them a sense of purpose than one that pays more. But the owners of Brick Road Coffee want to do both.
“We are committed to ensuring the viability of our business and continuing to work toward providing a living wage to our employees. We believe our business’s success is directly tied to the quality of life we provide for our employees. Therefore, the last thing on their minds when they are here should be how they will afford to live. In our opinion, Brick Road has to be their safe space in all areas of their life.” - Gabe Hagen, Co-owner.
Hagen and Shank have leaned into this by cultivating an inclusive, progressive culture prioritizing mental health and providing a fair living wage. Employees are encouraged to be their authentic selves. What more could you ask for in a world where being yourself (especially in the workplace) can be intimidating?
Happy employees are historically more productive, dedicated, innovative, and loyal than their dissatisfied counterparts. Influential leaders know how to motivate employees in a way that creates momentum and drives success. - Source: Forbes, May 2023 According to Forbes, thriving employees earning a livable wage spend more and give back to the community much more than their less-than-thrilled counterparts. For this reason, Hagen and Shank are committed to annual wage increases.
“Working at Brick Road Coffee affords me two things: the opportunity to be my complete self and grow further as a person and the chance to provide for myself without fear of having to choose between rent or groceries.” - Izzy B., Brick Road Employee.
Brick Road Coffee is a safe and sober space that openly welcomes the LGBTQ+ and sober/recovery communities. The support they receive from the community is given right back by investing in partnerships with other small business owners and community members.