Era of Change at The Refuge Cafe

From print version: 

The new year will bring new faces, new eats, and new hours to a Melrose favorite. Long time Refuge Café characters Jessica Lee and Lauren Cooperrider are stepping from behind the counter to take on the world, philanthropy style!

Lee, 26, joined the Refuge in 2014. She and her iconic blue hair, retro glasses, and unmistakeable laugh will be starting a non-profit in 2018 called “Ideas Project.” Cooperrider, 22, came on board a year later. She will continue to captivate colleagues with energetic wit and insightful inqury while across the parking lot in Catholic Charities’ Philanthropy Department. “I’ll miss making coffee and getting to talk to people who live near me,” Cooperrider said Friday.  “I’m sure I’ll be nervous, but I’ll learn.”

General Manager John Strawn said he was grateful for their commitment as Refuge expanded into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and grew as a coffee roaster. “(Lee’s) one of the best managers I’ve ever had,” said Strawn. “I can’t really replace either because they know everything here as well as I do.”

Strawn said patrons should click with quirky noobs Chad Goldstein and Jessica Potts. Goldstein, 24, co-owned his family’s restaurant before he went to Australia to compete in a live action role-play combat sport (think Mad Max with styrofoam and p.v.c. piping.)

He brought prickly pears into the Refuge Friday to concoct his own syrup. “John encourages creation,” he informed. “You know, you have to start somewhere.” Goldstein and Cooperrider settled on calling it, “Chad’s Cactus Juice,” which he plans to use for Italian Sodas. Potts operates her own massage therapy business. “I think we’ve done a good job hiring,” Strawn said.

In addition to new friends, Strawn wants guests to look forward to new breakfast, sandwhich and salad creations in January. He kept his card close on details for now. The Café will continue to open at 7 each morning, but will now close at 5 p.m. “We’re realizing we’re just more of a breakfast and lunch place during the day,” he said. “This will let us focus more on catering and events as well.”

Compassionate conoisseurs can pick a gift from the Refuge Giving Tree for a veteran, foster child, refugee family or those who have suffered domestic violence. Strawn said the gift is tax deductible. “Bring in the gift and the receipt and we’ll write it up for you at the counter.”

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