After a busy first two years the owners of Pomegranate Café in Ahwatukee Foothills were at a crossroads. Their business was booming and to keep up with lunchtime crowds the pair had to decide — did they want to cut back on offerings or expand to meet the demand?
The two decided to expand, taking over the empty store front next door so that they could double their kitchen and prep space and add more porch seating as well. The new space allows them to have more room to work and prepare the organic, local, vegetarian and vegan recipes they’ve become known for.
“Seating is an issue but it’s kind of fun when people have to wait for a table and there’s a crowd,” said Cassie Tolman, who owns the Pomegranate Café with her mother, Marlene. “There’s a buzz to that… The real problem was that our kitchen was like a closet. This use to be a wine bar, they didn’t really use it for a kitchen. We did build out the kitchen when we first came but it’s been progressively turning into more of an industrial kitchen to support the demand that comes in the door every day.
“We couldn’t expand the kitchen wall any further due to electrical so we decided to bring the kitchen out. Now the kitchen will be working behind the bar and so people will be able to see a lot of the prep, which is great. We’re excited for people to see that.”
Cassie and Marlene say they’ve been shocked by the amount of support they’ve received since opening in 2010. Even during the recent expansion, when the shop was closed for a week for construction, they were getting emails from customers cheering them on and even asking if they can come out and help in any way. While a main part of the success is the great food, the owners believe it’s something larger than that.
“We have so many people who die-hard support us because they support our mission,” Cassie said. “If it doesn’t work right for us one day they’ll come back and continue to support us because they want us to succeed and they want a business like us to succeed. It’s really people saying what do we want from our community and from the world? I think the vote is for small business, local and for people who have their hearts in the right place. That’s really what people are supporting.”
The small café grew 100 percent each month in 2011 except in July when it grew 89 percent, Marlene said. It’s been a blessing but also calls for a lot of creativity and flexibility.
The Tolmans say they’ve been asked about expanding to more than one location, but both agree they’re not ready for that.
“We think this location is in its adolescence stage right now, which would be a bad time to leave it,” Marlene said.
What they do see for the future is cooking classes, community classes, support groups, possible art classes and a cook book.
“We really want to make this even more of a community gathering space and a space that people want to come to and share and meet people,” Cassie said. “We want to become more of what we are.”
Pomegranate Café is located at 4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 28. For more information, visit pomegranatecafe.com or call (480) 706-7472.
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