Phil Jaber: The man behind Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee founder Phil Jaber

Philz Coffee founder Phil Jaber

Philz Coffee founder Phil Jaber (pronounced “jah-ber”) is conquering the world one Philz location at a time with love, faith, and truth as his anthem. There are 14 Northern California locations with plans to launch several more this year including in Southern California starting with Santa Monica. The Philz client roster includes Facebook, Google, and Twitter to name a few. Those not familiar with Philz may assume it is another mass produced coffee chain. “The beauty about our shop is each one has its own culture, its own community. I’m not a cookie cutter. I will never be a cookie cutter,” said Jaber emphatically.

Born in Palestine before 1967 and a native of Northern California’s East Bay, Jaber became passionate about coffee as a child when he stole sips of the dark potion at family gatherings. “Coffee made me active and alert. They didn’t have liquor. They had a cup of coffee or tea. You were lucky to have a cookie with it. They used to tell me, ‘Don’t drink coffee. You’re too young,’” chuckled Jaber.

Jaber became an entrepreneur as an eight-year-old when he would sell coffee to passersby from his family’s front yard and candy at a bus stop for a family friend who owned a local supermarket. “I like to make my own living. I know how to make money. I don’t ask anyone for help,” said Jaber.

As a teenager, Jaber saw business potential in coffee. “You can’t go wrong. High tech companies change. Coffee never changes.” Jaber helped his father start and run a market in the Sunset District of San Francisco that he calls “the Price Club in the 70s and 80s.” Along the way, Jaber opened a second grocery market and liquor store in the Mission District. In his spare time, Jaber conducted market research by observing patrons at coffee shops and five-star restaurants to find out how businesses and consumers engaged with coffee.

“I used to go to coffee shops and park my car, cross the street, and watch people go in. I used to time them,” recalled Jaber. “For example, the guy with a brown suit walked in at 10:15 and at 10:30 he’s out with a cup of coffee. I spent a lot of time watching things like that and I said to myself, ‘That’s not what I’m looking for.’ I wanted people to go in and sit, for community, like going to your grandma’s house, full of love and give options, service.”

Philz Coffee

With his love for people and a desire to foster a sense of community, Jaber began to experiment with his business concept and waited for the right time to launch. He spent 25 years quietly perfecting recipes for unique coffee blends that he individually named. Jaber also developed a method to dissolve the acid out of coffee – all while continuing business as usual at his market.

In 2002, Jaber sold his liquor license and converted his Mission District market to the first Philz Coffee at 24th and Folsom. “It’s like our society has been waiting for a good cup of coffee. It took off like a rocket. There was no hiccup,” Jaber said on the initial response to the coffee shop. “This is untouchable. No one can match it or do the same.”

Jaber credits the steady growth of Philz Coffee to trust, respect, accuracy, and a unique method of doing business. “Do the right things without looking back, without fear. I have some rules. That’s how I run my business. You must love what you do. You must have faith in what you do. We do nothing to impress. What you see is what you get. You must respect your clientele and treasure them. You must respect your team effort for doing a wonderful job.”

Jaber calls his family – his wife of 33 years and three adult children – his team effort and best friends. “There is no happy marriage 100 percent, but we’re in the high nineties,” said Jaber. “I have two girls – Gina, Jessica – and Jacob.” All three have worked or currently work with Philz Coffee. Jacob is the CEO of Philz.

Philz Coffee

“I want to thank God for having my children follow in our footsteps,” said Jaber. “You know, I cry sometimes thinking about what happened to us. Thank you, God. That’s all I can say. It only happens once in a lifetime.”

On what’s next besides conquering the world, Jaber talked about his newborn grand daughter, his first grand child. “She’s a new chapter in my life and it’s beautiful. I want to spend more time with my grand kids. I want to be their mentor. My wife and I did a good job with my kids. I want to be even better at it with my grand kids so they’re all cemented with each other and can love each other. Anything you do for each other, you can’t go wrong. That’s what it’s all about. That’s how I see life. We all have different opinions. Spread the love. Don’t be shy.”

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{Photos by Philz Coffee}


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