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The Buzz off campus

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Itl employee E. Schumeister, right, sits with one of the coffee house's regular customers yesterday afternoon. Schumeister said he enjoys getting to know the customers that visit the shop at 415 N. Fourth Ave.
By Kristina Dunham
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday September 19, 2003

For many UA students, coffee is an essential part of college life that enables them to open their eyes in the morning, stay up late to cram for an exam or take a social break with their friends between classes.

For some, where they buy and enjoy their java, however, is equally as important.

While coffee stands and shops both on campus and immediately around it abound, a string of coffee shops west of campus boasts of what some say is a special flavor ÷ and it's not just the drinks.

The walls of the Itl coffee shop, 415 N. Fourth Ave., are lined with colorful paintings, photographs and other artwork by local artists. All of the pieces are for sale, and it's just one of the ways in which the store tries to promote the local cultural scene, according to employee E. Schumeister.

"We just support locals. No franchises here," Schumeister said. "We support them and they support us."

Other activities that take place at the shop include chess tournaments, spelling and definition bees, open mike nights and musical Sunday mornings featuring "Hangover DJs."

"It's not your typical coffee shop," Schumeister said.

With all of the stuff going on at Itl, it might be difficult to remember why you went there in the first place. But one mustn't forget about the coffee, or the smoothies, 13 varieties of tea or house specialties such as the "Mozen."

A Mozen is a thick, frozen mocha drink that contains a soy-vanilla mix with a particular make-up that Schumeister swore was top secret.

"It's thicker than anything on the market," he said.

Schumeister said his favorite drink is a double shot of espresso with a little Sugar in the Raw.

If you like your coffee with a little sugar on the side, another place to try is the Chocolate Iguana, 500 N. Fourth Ave.

The Chocolate Iguana is a family owned shop that offers coffee, pastries and an assortment of candy, which you can select from the colorful jars that line the wall.

"It's a fun shop," said Chloe Conklin, who has worked in the shop with her family for nine years. "It's just a real cute, fun place."

Conklin said the business is a popular spot for UA students.

Gretchen Schoenfield, a school psychology graduate student said she goes to the Chocolate Iguana about once a week.

"They have excellent coffee and a blend of healthy lunch options, as well as sweets," Schoenfield said.

"The people who work here are fabulous," she added.

One of the similarities between the coffee shops on North Fourth Avenue is the appreciation the customers have for the people that work there.

Eric Mercado works at a construction site about a block away from Itl, and he frequents the store about four times a week.

He said he enjoys how he is greeted at the door by his first name.

"I think it's nice," he said. "It's very friendly."

Schumeister said he knows nearly every customer's name.

He added that that while it may be easy for new faces, including college students, to pass the shop by because it is small, once they find it, they return.

"There's a lot of loyalty here," he said.

When it gets busy, Schumeister said, the customers "pull out their own cups, grab their own ice · put the exact change down on the counter and walk out the door."

For customers who aren't in a rush, there is plenty of seating at Itl, including several plushy couches that give the room a "living-room" feel, or chairs outside in the rustic back patio.

Further down the street, there is another coffee house that also has lots of seating.

The space in the Epic Cafˇ, 745 N. Fourth Ave., makes it a prime place for UA students to study.

Hydrology graduate student Amy Defrees, who said she visits the cafˇ about twice a week, was doing just that yesterday afternoon.

She said she prefers it to the corporate establishments closer to campus because it's more comfortable and she likes the fact that it is privately owned.

"I like supporting independent companies," she said.

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