Cartel Coffee Lab owners build community one sip at a time

Above: A Cartel cold brew. (Photo courtesy of Cartel Coffee Lab) Experience AZ | 28 Oct |

What was once an idea for a small coffee cart has now turned into a multi-location business.

Jason and Amy Silberschlag always wanted to start a business together.

“We love community and hanging out, so we initially thought we would open a little cart in a high-rise tower,” Amy Silberschlag said.

After realizing that opening a coffee cart inside of another business building was more difficult than originally planned, the couple decided to rent a small location of their own. 

In January 2008, Cartel Coffee Lab opened its doors to the Tempe community at 225 W. University Dr. #101.

Cartel took off from the start. In addition to Tempe, there are locations in Downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Terminal 4 of Sky Harbor International Airport.

There are also two out-of-state locations in Palm Springs, California and Austin, Texas.

The Silberschlags never imagined that Cartel would grow as much as it has.

“I think having stores in three states is crazy to us,” Jason Silberschlag said.

“It’s been interesting because we have always been cautious about opening new locations because we want to give the best quality,” Amy Silberschlag said.

Along with serving a variety of hot and cold cups of coffee and pastries, Cartel also sells its coffee by the bag.

“We refer to all the types of coffee by the estate or farm they are from and we have about six at a time because just like produce, coffee is seasonal,” Jason Silberschlag said.

Because freshness is important to the couple, the coffee beans are roasted at the shop and distributed to the other locations.

For people who want the taste of Cartel Coffee in their homes but are not close to one of the locations, Cartel offers Edition.

Edition is an online subscription service that allows people to order bags of fresh roasted coffee and be delivered to their doorstep. The subscription delivers nationwide.

“It’s been about two and a half years since we started Edition and it has been great, people can choose how often they want their coffee,” Amy Silberschlag said.

Cartel has been around for more than a decade, creating many loyal customers along the way.

John Vargas has been recommending Cartel Coffee to his friends for a long time. He visited the Tucson locations frequently when he was in high school.

“My friend and I decided to go [to Cartel] during college application time and the minute we walked in we knew it was going to be a welcoming place,” Vargas said.   

His go-to order was an iced dirty chai which he always paired with one of the seasonal pastries.

“I loved the staff there, they always knew what I wanted,” Vargas said.

According to Jason Silberschlag, Cartel’s mission is to integrate and let the shop become a part of its community, in all the locations.

“Coffee felt like it was a perfect vehicle to build connections, meet new people and create a great environment,” Jason Silberschlag said.

To learn more about Cartel Coffee Lab visit its website.

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