TEMPE, Ariz. (May 28, 2022) – “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Today, this quote has even more significant meaning for Gabe Hagen and Jesse Shank, Co-owners of Brick Road Coffee in Tempe, AZ. Just two months after receiving the Tempe Friendliest Business Award, the neighborhood coffee shop, whose name was inspired by the classic film, received a Phoenix Pride Community Spirit Award.
The Howard & Patricia Fleischmann Spirit Award is awarded by Phoenix Pride each year to honor and celebrate a business that has made a significant contribution to the metropolitan Phoenix LGBTQ+ community. It’s safe to say that this year’s winner has truly earned this honor. Since opening its doors in late October 2021, Brick Road Coffee has not only become the favorite coffee shop and meeting place among Tempe locals and politicians alike, it has become a space where anyone that is in need of a safe space to be truly themselves can go and feel seen, heard and accepted.
“In a world where genuine community is hard to find, you will find a place here that celebrates your authenticity and embraces you as you are.” - Jen Eckles (They/Them), Loyal customer since day one
Opening a local coffee shop is no easy feat at any time but opening a coffee shop at the tail end of 2021 as the world is barely recovering from a global pandemic is even tougher. Nevertheless, they persisted. And boy, was it worth it! Since they opened, co-owners (and husbands), Gabe Hagen and Jesse Shank have quickly turned Brick Road Coffee into THE neighborhood gathering place. One thing Hagen and Shank are very proud of is the fact that their little coffee shop has become so much more than a great spot to fulfill one’s need for their daily caffeinated beverage. By setting the example that there is power in living authentically, they have allowed so many others to do the same. They have truly become the gathering place for so many displaced and marginalized communities that need a hub where they can enjoy something as simple as their morning coffee without the worry of judgment or not “fitting in.”
“One of our biggest motivators for opening Brick Road Coffee were memories of how LGBTQ+ spaces like independent coffee shops and theaters played such a central role in our own lives. Connecting us to our community, creating a common language and shared experience, and letting us know that we were going to be ok. We are so honored and humbled to receive the Phoenix Pride Howard & Patricia Fleischmann Community Spirit Award.” – Co-founder, Gabe Hagen
“I instantly felt at home at Brick Road Coffee and love that their passion for enhancing the queer community is as strong as mine!” - David Boyles, (he/they), Loyal customer and President of Drag Story Hour AZ
In the classic book The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy sets out on a journey of self-discovery only to realize that all one really needs to find themself is self-realization and acceptance. So, Gabe and Jesse clicked their heels three times, and have taken this philosophy and made it their mission to accept everyone as they are, no matter where they are on their personal journey. Creating a culture of community where friends and neighbors, new and old alike can come together is just as important as creating the perfect latte. Being members of the LGBTQ+ community, both Hagen and Shank know the struggle to fit in and feel accepted as they are, motivating them even more to provide a space for people that don’t feel like they fit anywhere else.
"Phoenix Pride unites, educates, and engages people to support and empower the LGBTQ+ community and our allies and the Community Spirit Awards are an opportunity for our community to be celebrated! From individuals to organizations, corporations, and even our allies the spirit awards are to honor and celebrate those who have made a significant contribution to the Metro Phx LGBTQ+ communities! Each year our community nominates and votes for their favorites, and phxPRIDE celebrates them all at our annual awards reception." - Eva Steele, Director of Programs, Phoenix Pride
Located in the heart of Tempe, on Rural Road and the U.S. 60, it’s safe to say Brick Road Coffee has become the heart and soul of the community they serve. Community is the foundation they are built on and they have already proven that in several ways. They curated Coffee with the Candidates events where customers and neighbors can speak with local representatives and become more informed and empowered to use their voices to vote. Earlier this year, they raised over $500 for Aunt Rita’s Organization for their annual Aids Walk event to spread awareness on HIV and Aids prevention. They host a monthly LGBTQ+ book club, Friend of Dorothy’s Book Club, in partnership with the Tempe Public Library and host Queer movie nights every Friday during the summer. Over the Rainbow Movie Night, hosted by a regular customer, David Boyles, celebrates queer cinema and allows young LGBTQ+ community members to learn about the history of those that came before them. Boyles is also President of a local non-profit, Drag Story Hour Az where a local drag performer reads an LGBTQ+ book and hosts an interactive experience that goes along with the book’s content. Brick Road Coffee is a regular hosting spot for these events and they have organized them for adults and children alike.
At their grand opening event hosted by the Tempe Chamber of Commerce in January 2022, they received the support of Representative Greg Stanton and several city council members and candidates as well as major non-profit directors and board members and raised over $1200 for one-n-ten Phoenix an organization near and dear to their hearts that supports LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.
“I want to congratulate Gabe and Jesse. Brick Road Coffee’s resounding success goes to show that creating a welcoming, inclusive environment is not only the right thing to do—it's also good for business.”- Representative Greg Stanton
Starting a small business is no easy feat but equipped with business finance experience and a passion to make a difference, Gabe and Jesse clearly succeeded in doing what they set out to do. 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. One look at their social media and you’ll see they have quite the following of avid supporters. Thanks For Being a Friend Fridays spotlights their loyal customers, vendors, and partners that have helped them become a staple in the community so quickly. For this and many of the reasons listed above Brick Road Coffee has proven that they are making a significant contribution to the metropolitan Phoenix LGBTQ+ community and beyond and are SO deserving of this award.
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*Award presented by Phoenix Pride on Sunday, June 12, 2022.