By Grace Copperthite
For coffee blogger Riley Farenholz, the most important aspect of selecting a coffee shop to visit is “comfy chairs, good music, and art on the walls.” But why can’t this welcoming atmosphere be created in coffee truck form?
First Place Coffee strives to do just that— they offer specialty drinks with quality ingredients and cultivate the pleasant feel of a local coffee shop— on a truck.
Devon McConville, founder of First Place Coffee, started her business after feeling “unfulfilled” in her career in finance. A love for coffee and previous experience as a barista drove McConville to quit her job, learn more about coffee, and eventually launch the First Place Coffee truck in February 2018.
“What drew me to coffee was when I was working from my office, I would take a break and walk down to the local café,” she said. “I saw people meeting over coffee, baristas engaged in their craft. I felt human connection. Looking back, I realize that this was what was missing from my career and ultimately my life, so I took the leap.”
First Place Coffee can be found around the Phoenix area; their location schedule is located on their website.
McConville explained that staying in Phoenix and serving the local community is part of what makes her coffee truck special.
“Although we are in a truck, we have been able to facilitate a truly special and loyal following of people that is constantly growing,” she said. “We get to see families expand, meet new puppies, celebrate birthdays and engagements. We have become a small part of people’s lives, and I think building relationships with our community is what sets us apart.”
Ashley Piska, a junior at Grand Canyon University, said she enjoys visiting First Place before going to the local farmer’s market or church.
“The experience is super unique because they aren’t available all the time at one specific location like other coffee shops, so it’s more special,” she said. “Not to forget that it’s a local, women-owned and women-run company too.”
McConville prides herself on being able to understand flavor profiles to deliver a unique experience to customers. She enjoys finding unlikely coffee pairings to offer a rotating seasonal menu alongside the “Signatures” menu, which offers traditional coffee drinks.
“I love to push the boundaries of what’s possible with coffee and use fresh herbs and botanicals and citrus,” she said. “Some of it may sound weird but I promise it all works. Our current fall menu has: pumpkin and butternut squash; Tahini Maple Spice; cardamom and orange zest; Shaken Peanut Butter; and Salted Maple Matcha.”
Though McConville has found a passion in owning a coffee truck and creating interesting coffee pairings, it has not been without uphill battles. She explained that coffee requires a lot of moving parts, some of which are “intensified” by being on wheels.
“We’ve had several occasions where we were all set up and ready for service, with a line of people waiting, and the espresso grinder isn’t working or there’s an issue with a generator that is needed to power all of the equipment. The silver lining is that we always pivot and the community pivots right along with us,” she said.
However, McConville said that despite the challenges, it is easy for her to acknowledge and manage her stress.
“It’s key to learn how to manage stress, and roll with the punches of the inevitable issues that will arise. This part has actually been surprisingly easy for me,” she said. “It can feel terrible in the moment, but it’s always temporary and you just have to get up and keep going.”
In the future, McConville hopes to have a physical shop while still keeping the original truck on the streets of Downtown Phoenix.
“It would be a dream to have our own space where people can come and sit down and enjoy what we have to offer,” she said. “I’d also want to continue the mobile aspect of the business and have the truck available for events. From there, who knows! I think the opportunities are endless.”.
First Place Coffee now parks outside the Churchill in Downtown Phoenix every Monday from 7:30-10:30 a.m.
All photos from First Place’s Instagram