Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed the Refuge Coffee House. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed the Refuge Coffee House Dec. 5. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A new coffee shop and wine bar has commuters and residents in the Camelback Corridor investing in more than a little “R and R.” They’re supporting the livelihood of local refugee families.


The Refuge

4727 N. 7th Ave.
(602) 265-1725

6-8 p.m., Dec. 19: Somali night behind the bar

6-8 p.m., every Friday: live music

[/quote_box_right]Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed The Refuge AZ, a new coffee shop and wine bar Dec. 5 as part of a grand opening and “coffee cake cutting” event. It opened this fall as a social enterprise effort of Catholic Charities Community Services.

The café, 4727 N. 7th Ave., sits just south of Catholic Charities and has already provided supplemental support to 20 refugee families in its first seven weeks of business. Local refugee families that are also Catholic Charities clients benefit from food and beverage sales including Café Esperanza, a private label blend that customers can bring home.

Refugee clients also benefit from sales of their handiwork. Paintings cover the walls and handmade décor items and accessories fill display cases. Each item, including ornaments on the café’s Christmas tree, display the name and country of origin of its maker.

“I hope we have done justice by you,” said Aleksandra Buha, who came to Arizona as a refugee from Bosnia in 1997.

Her brother, herself and their parents went on to become citizens and Buha graduated from ASU in 2004. She now works at a children’s museum and teaches arts and crafts part-time.

Buha is one of several artists with pieces on display in the café. She found it an opportunity to re-embrace the refugee element of her life.

Bishop Olmsted called The Refuge a great project and looks forward to coming back. He commented on the many refugees who come from far away, especially the Middle East after long periods of suffering.

“We have the privilege and the honor of receiving them and loving them in this place,” the bishop said. “Refugees need to be able to make a livelihood for themselves.”

Nick Sofranac, manager of The Refuge, plans to remind patrons of the café’s ultimate mission by mixing cultural flavors behind the bar and on stage. A Somali night is Dec. 19 with live music ever Friday night.

Steve Capobres, vice president of business development for Catholic Charities, said it was important to give refugees a venue to showcase their artistic and musical talents. As ambassadors welcoming nearly 1,000 refugees a year to the community, he said new outreach through the café is the least Catholic Charities can do.

Future staff members will include refugee clients to gain additional job experience.