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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Raging Sage coffee shope rages on after fire

    Gordon Bates
    Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    “This is the happiest job I’ve ever had.”

    So goes the life of a Raging Sage Coffee Roasters barista Julia Cavanaugh, an international affairs senior, who is now a regular at the popular Tucson micro-roaster.

    As one of Tucson’s well-known fixtures in such a niche market, Raging Sage racks up returning customers and a reputation to go with its award-winning home brews; Tucson Weekly recently awarded Raging Sage with one of its annual “Best of Tucson” awards for “Best Local Coffee Roaster.”

    It’s an award well-deserved.

    “All kinds of people come to Raging Sage,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s not just making lattes. Hands-down, the people who come all create this environment that’s just conducive to happiness. People love coming here.”

    In a a building smaller than most Tucson homes, Raging Sage nails the quaint local coffee joint environment.

    The small working area where Cavanaugh and her co-workers make more than just the average latte could come off as mildly claustrophobic, but this is the kind of place where people don’t mind being close to one another. The tables almost make neighbors touch shoulders, but rarely will anyone get offended by the lack of personal space.

    The refreshments aren’t too bad, either.

    Cavanaugh said all the baristas still follow the owner’s original recipes for everything, “from the scones to the house blend itself.”
    But this cozy inside was in danger of being lost this past summer. In July, Raging Sage suffered a fire caused by an overheated coffee roaster.

    “We used to keep our roasters in the back room, and because Raging Sage has such tight quarters, it’s not surprising that something near the roaster could have caught fire … which is what happened,” she said. “As the fire reached the ceiling, smoke started coming out of the roof. Luckily, a fire truck was driving by at that exact moment before we’d even called them. They drove up and said, ‘You guys have a fire and we’d like to put that out for you.’ It was kind of a miracle.”

    Twenty-seven firefighters extinguished the blaze, which was estimated to have caused $40,000 in damage, but the unfortunate incident didn’t deter anyone from making sure Raging Sage survived. The store re-opened just five days later, Cavanaugh said.

    “The damage was done, but we were able to get everything back working quickly because everyone working there was willing to pitch in and help out,” she said.

    Today, Raging Sage stands at its Campbell Avenue location as steady as ever.

    Jesse Leon, assistant manager at Raging Sage, said that with a solid footing in Tucson, the store has no plans to expand to other cities.

    “We like the family vibe of Tucson,” Leon said. “We could grow bigger if we wanted, but there’s nowhere that could offer the same type of atmosphere as Tucson. Our online site primarily exists to serve as a source for out-of-staters to get their fix of our beans, but it’s not our focus — Tucson is. And we’re happy to keep it that way.”

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