| July-August 2012
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By Karen Topakian
Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a coffee store that makes each cup to order.
4298 24th St. at Douglass
For 35 years, Phil Jaber, Philz Coffee’s owner and founder, drove up Diamond Street on the way to his church, St. Nicholas, in Diamond Heights. The sight of the people, the dogs, and the nannies strolling around Noe Courts park convinced him he wanted to open a store in Noe Valley.
“This is one of the most beautiful cultured neighborhoods in the city,” says Jaber, who opened his 10th Philz Coffee store in Northern California at 4298 24th St. near Douglass Street on March 31.
Philz Coffee sells Jaber’s customized coffee and tea blends, but the store’s specialty is making “personalized” coffee, one cup at a time.
Jaber says he took 25 years to perfect his blends. He traveled to more than a thousand different coffeehouses around the country before he came up with his first blend, Tesora, the Italian word for treasure. The medium roast coffee, one of the company’s two highest sellers, goes for $13.95 per pound. The other top favorite, Jacob’s Wonderbar, named for his son and CEO Jacob Jaber, layers nuts and chocolate into a dark roast blend and sells for $14.95 per pound.
“My coffee stays the same even a hundred years from now. Nothing will change it,” says Jaber, who began selling coffee in 2003 in a corner store at 24th and Folsom streets in the Mission.
According to Rob Nevitt, Noe Valley store manager, having a cup of coffee at Philz is an experience to savor. Only after the customer has placed their order does the barista grind the beans, sprinkle them in a filter, and stream hot water over the coffee.
“I’ve been hooked since day one,” says Nevitt, who claims he wasn’t really a coffee drinker until he tried Philz’ Philharmonic, a blend seasoned with cardamom. “It was the best coffee I’d ever had. I realized this is something unique and special. It’s not just coffee.”
Large chalkboards give the prices and descriptions of Philz’ 18 blends of caffeinated beans, five decaffeinated, three specialty blends, and 14 varietals (French, Ethiopian, Colombian), plus loose teas and spices. The Code 33 blend is a dark roast “made for the San Francisco Police Department, to keep them alert while keeping our great city safe,” the store’s website says.
A cup of coffee costs between $2.75 and $4.50, depending on the blend and the size of the cup (small or large). A spot of tea is $2.50.
To complement the beverages, Philz offers fresh pastries, delivered daily by Starter Bakery in Oakland. Nevitt says the shop will soon add bagels and vegan donuts.
Paintings by local artists adorn the walls in the open, comfortable coffeehouse. Children’s toys and games occupy the sunny front of the store.
Nevitt wants to add a chalk wall for kids and will hold a children’s reading hour with local authors. “We want to make it easier for moms. If kids are happy, moms are happy,” says Nevitt, noting that the Noe Valley Philz sells more decaf than most of the other stores, “because we have a lot of moms.”
The store also attracts middle-schoolers and teens, says Nevitt. “Every afternoon, I get a group of kids in for their chai tea.”
Philz has free wi-fi for its customers. “I want my guests, my clientele, to feel comfortable. Next year, I want to put in chairs with seat belts,” says Jaber, whose daughter Jessica suggested he add the “z” to Phil, to make the store name stand out. “I want to make this their first home. Their home becomes second,” Jaber says.
Philz Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.