There are dozens of places to grab a coffee and a doughnut in the local area. But there might only be one where you can pay your taxes and sign up for insurance while you’re there.
Rachel Phillipps opened Cafe Aromaz in November at 408 Silver St. in Toledo, where she also runs an insurance agency. It’s an odd mix, but it combines her twin passions.
The cafe serves traditional caffeinated drinks like tea, lattes, americanos and cappuccinos, as well as smoothies and hot chocolate. Food items include muffins, chips and cookies.
Phillipps has worked in the insurance industry for the 25 years she has lived in Toledo, but she lost her job in Centralia 14 years ago. She bought a house with her husband and opened her own insurance agency, Phillipps Insurance Group LLC, there.
“I’m kinda safe,” Phillipps joked about being her own boss. “Who’s gonna fire me?”
Cafe Aromaz began as Steamboat Plaza, a full-service hair salon and cafe Phillipps co-owned that opened in June 2016. She bought her business partner’s 50 percent share in the salon in April 2017, taking over as the company’s sole owner.
It was an overwhelming time, she said, and running the business started to spiral out of control. But Phillipps was determined to pay the bills and keep the cafe alive.
“I chose to buy him out instead of shutting the doors,” Phillipps said. “... we had a lot of work to do, because we were not prepared to run a coffee shop.”
In November, Steamboat Plaza split in two, with the newly-opened Cowlitz Street Salon taking over the old location. Phillipps brought the cafe to her insurance office where another business, GRT Tax & Accounting Services, had joined Phillipps Insurance seven years prior.
Phillipps comes from a family of business owners. Her grandfather owned a tile business for 73 years, and her mother owned a real estate appraisal business.
Cafe Aromaz’ name comes from that family history: “Aromaz” is Phillipps’ own maiden name — Zamora — spelled backwards. When she told her mother she’d finally changed the cafe’s name, Phillipps said, her mother replied, “What took you so long?”
The three businesses feed off each other, Phillipps said. Customers will often walk in to get their taxes done and walk out with a cup of coffee. On any given day, Phillipps and her employee are jumping between running the cafe and her insurance business.
“It’s fun, it’s different, it’s not a whole lot of stress,” she said. “People come in here in a good mood. ...it’s kinda like (the TV show) ‘Cheers’: somebody walks in and it’s like, ‘Norm!’ ”
Phillipps said she doesn’t plan to ever retire, but she would like to eventually reduce her workload. Running the insurance agency and cafe has kept her at work for many nights and weekends.
The rewards are hers, though, and she said her businesses have started to achieve stability.
“It seems like things are finally coming together,” she said.