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Firefly Hot Spots: Phoenix Public Market Cafe Becomes a Downtown Phoenix Community Hub

By: Hailey Eslick

Phoenix Public Market Café opened in May this year. Aaron Chamberlin opened here to carry on what had started within these walls in 2009. The space served as a local grocery and wine bar. It was a community gathering spot and created a sense of place in the downtown Phoenix community. When they closed their doors in 2012 locals we’re devastated. Aaron had always loved this space. When he took it over his primary goal was to continue and expand on the awesomeness that had started here.

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Who are the owners?

Photographed above is Aaron Chamberlin with Ben, a member of his pastry department. Aaron Chamberlin has been in the restaurant business for 24 years. His passion for cooking began as a boy scout. He deeply enjoyed outdoor cooking and working with an open fire. This is something he still integrates into his menus today. His first restaurant jobs were in Apache Junction when he was 14 years old. When he was 19 he moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school. After moving there and working for a French Chef, he changed his mind. He felt the best experience he could acquire would be hands on training in the industry, so he decided against school. He gained this experience by working in different restaurants in many major US cities. After moving back to Phoenix 8 years ago today he now owns two local Phoenix restaurants.

When asked what he likes about his work, he tells me it’s the people. The connections he has built with customers and with his staff are what running his businesses is all about. Between the two restaurants, Aaron employs 130 individuals. He loves to teach and watch young talent grow. Not only does he absolutely enjoy what he does but, at the end of the day, it is rewarding on an emotional level.

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How did it start? 

After moving back to Phoenix, Aaron fell in love with the building that is now the Phoenix Public Market Cafe‘s home. At the time, the building was an architecture firm. Aaron tells me he remembers peeking into the space when he first moved back and envisioned a restaurant in these walls. When he was prepared to open the business, unfortunately, this particular space wasn’t right at the time. He set out for a different location within Phoenix.

Aaron searched with his business partner and brother, David Chamberlin, for three years to find the perfect place. They found their first restaurant’s home in the heart of Phoenix near Central and Camelback and named it St. Francis. The space was built by architect Harold Ekman in 1955 as his office, and went through a year-long transformation with local architect Wendell Burnette before opening in 2009. Burnette took a beautiful mid-century modern building and transformed it into a contemporary architectural masterpiece. St. Francis aims to give guests an experience consisting of quality ingredients and genuine hospitality. They work with their team and local vendors to provide only the best for their customers.

This past May the owners behind St. Francis in addition to Aaron’s wife Lee del Real and her sister Amy del Real opened the Phoenix Public Market Café, making the ownership team two brothers and two sisters. Family is a huge part of both St. Francis and the Phoenix Public Market Café. Aaron has always dreamed of owning a restaurant with an open-air farmers market in the parking lot. He tells me he works with 8 local farmers to provide the Phoenix Public Market Cafe with their produce, and that 90% of the retail items for sale in the café are directly from the open-air market.

Aaron has known since moving back from San Francisco that downtown Phoenix is a community he wants to be a part of. Aaron says he’s totally stoked to be down here and that he’s feels lucky to be part of the city’s resurgence. He makes it clear that he is honored to be part of downtown Phoenix with pioneers such as the Biancos, owners of Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco and the Pools, owners of Matt’s Big Breakfast and Giant Coffee. His goal with the cafe is for it to become a special community spot, harkening back to the community gathering spot it used to be as a grocery and wine bar. He wants it to be a place where people can gather: whether it is for a business meeting, catching up with a friend, or enjoying a meal. Aaron’s vision is that the Phoenix Public Market Café can become a hub for the community again.

Why we love it!

The Market is a one-stop shop for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails. It is open 7 days a week, and has a fantastic summer happy hour. In addition to all of this, they are dedicated to using the best local ingredients possible, the majority of which are coming directly from the farmers market located in their parking lot. Outside of the ingredients they use in their own kitchen, they are encouraging the community to shop local by offering a vast majority for their retail items from local vendors. They have created a sense of place in the downtown Phoenix community as well. Customers want to spend their time here. We know we do! The Public Market has been one of our regular stops for team meetings and other social engagements.

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Photographed above are some of our favorite local items for sale in the market. From left to right and top to bottom. 1. Maya’s Farm flowers. 2. Phoenix Public Market tote bag. 3. Peanut Butter Americano. 4. Arizona Rose all purpose flour. 5. McClendon’s Select pure raw bee pollen. 6. Bianco Dinapoli Tomatoes.

Hours and Location

Phoenix Public Market Café is located at 14 E. Pierce Street. They are open 7 days a week from 7am to 10pm.

What else is in the neighborhood?

Two of Aaron’s favorite spots in the neighborhood are Nobuo at the Teeter House and The Breadfruit. Nobou specializes in Japanese style snacks and home-style dishes, while The Breadfruit’s focus is Jamaican style cuisine and a large menu of rum based cocktails. We approve of these places at Firefly Living as well!

With their dedication to all things local and the development of the downtown Phoenix community it is hard not to love the Phoenix Public Market Café. In the less than three months they have been open they have created a place locals want to be and a destination others want to travel to. Because Aaron makes family and people a consistent aspect of his business you immediately feel at home in the café. We stand by the Phoenix Public Market and the genuine sense of community they’re bringing to downtown Phoenix.

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