A former Phoenix police officer and U.S. Air Force veteran has found a way to stay involved in his profession and build bridges in the community via an online coffee business.
Jason Cvancara of Gilbert founded Zona Coffee Company in the summer of 2021 with product names inspired by people and places of Arizona, including Sedona, Tucson and Flagstaff blends.
Many have a military or police theme as well, such as the Back the Blue blend and the Brrrrrt Blend, in honor of the A10 Warthog aircraft.
Currently, Zona Coffee Company is operated out of a commercial kitchen in Chandler, but a brick-and-mortar location is in the works for somewhere in the East Valley later this year or early 2023.
Cvancara envisions his upcoming coffee shop as a friendly place where people can enjoy their java while socializing.
“One thing I miss about being a cop is you could talk to anybody and it wasn’t weird,” he said. “With coffee, it allows you to do that still. It’s a conversation glue…. It’s that common piece that brings people together.”
Much of the disconnect and tension between law enforcement and the community is due to lack of communication, Cvancara said.
“I would love to have events where it’s coffee with a cop,” he noted. “I don’t recall anyone getting into a fistfight while drinking a cup of coffee. It’s a great way to start conversations with people.”
Zona Coffee Company also sells a a line of apparel that Cvnacara designed, including a T-shirt that reads, “I drink coffee with cops.”
Other accessories reference law enforcement, military and Arizona as well, such as mugs, coasters, stickers and bags of pancake mix.
Most beans are $10.99 for 8 ounces, pancake mix is $7.99 for 10 ounces and most shirts are about $20–22.
Cvancara’s two youngest children are involved in the business as well, with son Jaxon, 9, functioning as his “aroma guy” to say whether a blend smells good or not, and daughter Reese, 7, taste-testing the pancake mixes.
Cvancara’s wife, Jamie, is a nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and she and her coworkers drink his coffee that she takes to them as well, Cvancara said.
He also has two older daughters who live out of state, but he joked they didn’t get the coffee drinking gene.
As a cop and in the military, Cvancara drank plenty of bad coffee, he said, so he wanted to create something superior.
“I’m picky about what type of coffee I drink,” he said, “so I wanted quality product.”
Right now, Zona Coffee Company’s beans come from local suppliers and are roasted in Scottsdale, but later this year, Cvancara plans to travel to Central and South America to buy green beans directly from growers in lower-income communities.
A friend of his who recently married a woman from El Salvador told Cvancara, “You should source your products from these areas. It would help the communities down there out a ton.”
And yes, Zona Coffee Company’s impending location will sell doughnuts, but Cvancara won’t divulge details about them except to say they’re “going to be creative, and people are going to love them.”
Ryan Douglas of Gilbert buys from Zona Coffee Company because it’s fresh and he likes to support local businesses.
“I can get really good coffee that puts dollars and food on the table for somebody else,” he said, adding, “I could … buy Starbucks, but that doesn’t put somebody local in charge of their destiny.”
Cvancara’s father was in the military, so he grew up all over the U.S. and in Europe. After graduating from high school in North Dakota, he joined the Air Force and did eight years of active duty as a military police officer, followed by a decade with Phoenix police.
Meanwhile, he also served in the Air Force reserves at Luke Air Force Base and continues to serve at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.
For two years, Cvancara worked in community relations for the Department of Justice in Denver, and then returned to Phoenix and started a private security business. He sold it in June 2021.
“My mom passed away a couple months after that,” Cvancara said, “so that’s when I wanted to focus on stuff that made me happy. My mom always said, ‘Do what makes you happy,’ and coffee makes me happy. So I was like, you know what? Coffee it is.”
Cvancara markets via social media and a monthly email newsletter, and Zona Coffee Company has carts available to set up onsite at events.
He also broadcasts the Zona Podcast Show, highlighting people making an impact in the state, and has written a book called The 918 Files.
Zona Coffee Company gives back to the community by providing free coffee at events such as law enforcement recruitment drives and Mothers Against Drunk Driving meetings. Cvancara also sends free coffee to military members who are deployed in the Middle East, and $1 from every bag of Back the Blue blend is donated to the 100 Club of Arizona.
Cvancara added, “Then when we do open the store, cops will get free coffee.”