Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 14, 2013

BUSINESS: PhoenixSquare Deli & Coffee Shop brings art culture, caffeine, delicacies and groovy music to Jacksonville

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Prospective customers of the newly-opened PhoenixSquare Deli & Coffee Shop should expect to find an inviting and eclectic mix of hot coffee, delicious food, local music, WiFi and interesting people  —  not to mention a window into Jacksonville's fantastic arts community.

"We are located at the corner of 'Fabulous!' and 'Yum!'' PhoenixSquare Chef Liz Staples enthused.

The shop, which opened its doors last month, is located at 201 East Commerce, on the corner of Main and Commerce in downtown directly across from Austin Bank.

It is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. However, during the later three days of the week, PhoenixSquare officials reserve the right to stay open as late as 11 p.m., depending on the crowd and the music.

Staff members say they want customers to feel free to visit the facility as a hangout, much in the same way they would a Starbucks. Patrons are welcome to sit at a table or bench, connect their laptops to the Internet, chill out, and take advantage of the delicious hot espresso and coffee drinks and daily food specials. The average price range at the cash-only business runs about $10.

Or, to put it in the posted words of the staff, "the coffee and the wifi are ON."

There you'll find barista Danielle Cooley, 24. She has only been on the job about a week, but is working diligently to develop her "foam art" to put an even-yummier face on the already-delicious cappuccino drinks. Veteran barista (and sister) Dava Ainsworth, 20, serves up the signature  "Caffeine Overload" cupcakes, an empowering combination of caffeine and sugar goodness.

The menu crackles with a variety of coffee drinks dusk as Cafe Americano, Flavored Latte', Cappuccino, FlipSwitch (12 ounces of coffee, one shot of espresso), Hot Shot Cocoa (hot chocolate, one shot of espresso, and whip cream), regular coffee, hot chocolate , tea, and soda. Depending on what you drink, the drink prices range from $2 to $3.50.

Chef Staples has woven a culinary web of deli sandwich delights all her own, including cajun turkey, smoked ham,  smoked turkey, and a variety of cheeses and breads. For $5.50 customers can build their own sandwich.

There also will be extraordinary meal specials, such as Staples' pork loin barbecue sliders and house award winning chili with cornbread.

And lest you think sandwiches will be made without Jacksonville's signature tomatoes, have no fear. Only homegrown, local produce will make its way into each meal, the chef boasts.

Staples said PhoenixSquare is more than just a venue for art, music and coffee. She said it also is a haven for learning: She invites new, young chefs to come and watch — and possibly participate in — the process.

Of the five partners behind the creation of the business, Deon Williams of Troup and Mike Withrow and Dave Cooley (father of the aforementioned two baristas) of Jacksonville were on hand Tuesday to discuss the general thrust of  the business.

Withrow and Cooley comprise the house band, Withrow Cooley, which is a central part of the store's musical flow.  Ultimately, the goal is to have music Monday through Saturday, officials said.

Visiting musicians represent a "cross-section of musical genres and styles," according to posts on PhoenixSquare's Facebook page. About 30 musicians have already made their way through the establishment, Withrow and Cooley said.

Open Mic Night for musicians, by the way, starts at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Also, PhoenixSquare's art gallery, boasts over 400 square feet of display space dedicated to promoting local and regional cultural arts. This includes paintings, sculpture and other intellectual arts.

Tracy Williams (Deon Williams' wife), manages the art gallery portion of the store.

The art of Leigha M. Sherman of Maydelle is among those spotlighted. There is a "meet the artist" event planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at the shop. Visit her website at http://releasearts.artistwebsites.com.

"The Arts! Our guests are soaking it up," reads another Facebook post.

Ultimately, owners expect to  bring in multiple revenue streams because PhoenixSquare caters to multiple interests, Deon Williams said.

One of those diversities is the ability to be hired for private parties — possibly even weddings.

"Don't limit us!" Cooley said with a smile.