Not so long ago, the far East Valley coffee scene was pretty rough. I had recently moved out to Gilbert, and to get a really good cup of coffee, I had to drive ~30 minutes to get to Cartel in Tempe. But one day I saw that a new coffee shop was opening. The branding and the copy made it seem like it was going to be something good, but it was mysteriously opening up in a salon space within a JCPenney's anchored shopping center. If you had to rate the vibe of the area pre-Provision, I'd say it was a grim 1/10.
So we walked in, and the Palette Collective space was strikingly modern. Crisp white everything, pops of mint green, particleboard tables with white shell chairs, and then Dan and Lawrence over on the right, running a bar that felt like it had accidentally teleported to Chandler/Gilbert from LA. There was no menu on the wall—just a tri-fold book of coffee standards, coffee cocktails, and toasts.
I remember getting my first Southwest Sunrise and thinking, "oh, ok... I guess I'm going to be fine living out here."
A year or so later, Kevin and I rented the salon space in the far back left—a space that Palette was struggling to rent because it was reeeealy small. But whatever. We crammed two small desks and a bookshelf in, and instantly had the best office situation in the valley. We were less than 20 steps away from fantastic coffee and the crazy cast of characters floating in Provision's orbit.
The thing about Provision that always cracks me up is that their baristas are never just baristas, and their customers are never the standard people you see floating around. In those early days they had this barista from Boston who may have been an electrician if I'm remembering correctly. Like the shop itself, he seemed like he accidentally teleported in from the set of Good Will Hunting. He had the thickest Boston accent ever, and would tell me all sorts of stories about his mom, his friends from back home, and crazy stuff I'm assuming only happens in the NE.
Then they had a photographer who looked like he walked off a movie set. He had this strange look of melancholy at all times, and it really felt like when he poured a drink, it was a pivotal moment in his life. Every time. I can't explain it. He was also professionally going by just his last name (all caps, with a space between each letter), and somehow it didn't seem like a bad branding move. (I certainly couldn't pull something like that off.)
And Joel, who's still at Provision, would preach passionately about sweet cars and whatever new thing he was carrying around in his pocket. I'd look at him talking and think, "How is his hair even possible? I feel like it's its own emotional being."
And there would be Jonathan—not an employee yet—hanging out at the bar talking about tasting notes and the coffee scene. I'd see people in fashionable outfits that didn't normally exist in that part of town. Big hats, fancy shoes, pressed collars. It was this weird other world, and then you'd walk out into the JCPenney parking lot.
Provision has moved to far fancier digs since, but those early Gilbert days were good ones. If you're lucky enough to be in the Arcadia area, don't take it for granted.
(Oh, and Lawrence/Dan, there's a corn field for sale about a mile from my house...you should take a look.)