Small businesses and their connection to the Phoenix community

Fair Trade Café is a locally owned downtown Phoenix coffee shop with two locations. (Photo by Torres Multicultural Communications)

Fair Trade Café is a locally owned coffee shop with two locations in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Torres Multicultural Communications)

The Paz Cantina food truck owned and operated by Michael Reyes. (Photo by Michael Reyes)

The Paz Cantina food truck owned and operated by Michael Reyes. (Photo by Michael Reyes)

By Rolando Terrazas

Many small, local businesses in downtown Phoenix have gone beyond providing goods and services to the community by also giving to people in need.

Small businesses are an important part of Arizona’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Association, small businesses employed 45 percent of the Arizona private workforce in 2013.

Fair Trade Café, a locally owned coffee business, takes pride in doing business with community involvement, according to owner Stephanie Vasquez.

Vasquez said sustainability is part of the values of the business at every level. Everything served is locally sourced and made fresh every day. She uses all recyclable materials.

Fair Trade Café also takes part in First Fridays at Roosevelt Row and supports those in need by giving donations to various nonprofit organizations.

Another business that is greatly involved with the community is Paz Cantina, a taquería owned by Michael Reyes, who is also a chef.

Paz Cantina came alive on Nov. 7, 2014, and was opened for one year and one day at the corner of Roosevelt and Third Streets. After several investors tried to buy out the property, eventually one succeeded, and now Reyes operates his business from a food truck.

Even though Paz currently does not have a physical location, it does a great deal of work throughout the Valley in its food truck, as well as catering at events and going out to community events such as First Friday.

Reyes said he does not like to refer to his food as a traditional Mexican cuisine, but rather a Chicano cuisine. Reyes said, “We’ve taken artisan craft taquería with sourcing locally as much as we can.”

This is how Reyes brings his unique brand to life. “Our brand is Paz and what that means for us is comunidad, cultura, y comida (community, culture and food).”

Reyes welcomed the homeless community into his restaurant. Even though he said many people criticized him, he believed that was part of the mission of Paz. “I knew we had a mission of love, peace and taco grease.”

Reyes said, “They would get a table. They would get food for free. They would be treated like the best. If you could not do that, and you were so worried about a tip, I did not wanna work for you, you cannot work for me; I do not look for hotshot experience people, I look for kindness.”

Now that Paz has a food truck, Reyes serves free tacos every Tuesday at Central Arizona Shelter Services, located on 12th Avenue and Madison Street.

Besides businesses within the food service area, other small businesses give back to the community, such as 602 Auto Sports, which offers tires, wheels and auto repair.

Owner Jose Montaño said the business participates in Breakfast with Santa, a Christmas event with Eastlake Park for children around that neighborhood. Montaño said, for some kids that attend this event, it’s the only time they get gifts during Christmas.

With these examples of small businesses, one can realize the impact that local businesses can have in our communities.